A walking partner improves fitness, commitment | Health

Painless Stop Smoking

If you’ve read Dr. Victor Sierpina’s weekly column for any period of time, you likely will have read the phrase “motion is lotion” when it comes to the benefits of exercise.

Research has shown that 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise plus some weight training will improve your quality of life. These benefits include increased strength, better balance, decreased pain, improved functional capacity, reduced risk of fracture, improved cardiac health and reduced risk of death by 33 percent when compared to those who don’t exercise. One of the best exercises you can do is walking 20 to 30 minutes a day.

Now, when I say walking, I don’t mean a casual stroll along the seawall or beach while dodging tourists and the occasional stop to pick up a shell. I mean a brisk walk, where you’re unable to hold a conversation without having to stop to take a deep breath. This will increase your heart rate to provide you the health benefits of exercise.

But let’s face it, it can be difficult to develop the motivation to create a regular walking habit. One of the easiest ways to help get into the habit is to get a walking partner.

Studies have shown that walking with a partner improves your chances of losing weight, exercising longer and can even help with smoking cessation. People who regularly walk have increased self-esteem, better sleep, lower stress and improved symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Numerous factors play a role in these improvements. One of these is the act of being out in nature. Research shows physical activity in natural environments like forests or a beach will boost mood and health. If only there was a state park or beach close by that we could use to get out in nature.

Walking with someone is more enjoyable and has been shown to create deeper interpersonal connections. Couples who regularly walk together report improved positive feelings about their spouses and marriage.

For example, when my spouse and I go for a walk, we’re spending time without an agenda. No children to get to an activity, no bills to pay, no messes to clean. It’s also safer to walk with a partner in case something happens. I also believe there’s something deeper and even spiritual about choosing to walk with someone. It’s a physical manifestation of your commitment to walk through life with each other.

Now, one final caveat regarding walking with a partner. Don’t slow down and don’t get distracted. While that connection is important, one of your primary goals should be to exercise. Encourage each other to keep up the pace. Also, try to keep your phones away. We naturally walk slower with that tiny screen in front of us.

To learn more about the benefits of walking and other health tips, come out to “Walk With a Doc” when it starts back up again through the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Integrative Medicine student group.

Dr. Samuel Mathis is an assistant professor in UTMB’s Family Medicine Dept.

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