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Walk Your Way to Better Health

Is it 37° and threatening to snow while I write this? Yes. Does that mean I’m not making plans for spring? Absolutely not. My plan for spring? More walks.

As most of you know, I have two dogs. One very large rottweiler, Bulleit, and one little-legged basset hound, Booker. This spring, Booker and I will be getting our steps in.

Now, before you come for me, don’t worry, Bulleit gets plenty of good walkies — but that’s special time for him and Steve and I won’t get in the middle of their bro time.

So, Booker and I are going to head out and explore the neighborhood. See what we can see and find what we can find.

I am fortunate to live in a very walkable neighborhood, so it will be easy for Booker and me to hit the streets.

Booker has a luxating patella (that’s a wobbly kneecap) so we have to be careful about not walking him for too long, or on rough terrain, so the easy streets in my neighborhood will be the perfect way to get both him and I some much needed movement and exercise! The best treatment for his kneecap is to keep him moving so his weight stays down and keeps extra weight and pressure off his joint.

On average, 1 out of every 4 U.S. adults sits for longer than eight hours each day, per research from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, which is no bueno for physical and mental health. Regular exercise improves mood, boosts energy and can even help you sleep better. Staying active is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy.

Adding more movement can benefit your body and mind in numerous ways, such as:

Lowering disease risk. Getting the recommended amount of physical activity (at least 150 minutes of moderate, 75 minutes of vigorous or a combination of those activities per week) is linked to lower risk of diseases, stronger bones and muscles, improved mental health and cognitive function and lower risk of depression, according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.

Increasing sunlight exposure. Outdoor exercise is an easy way to get moving and take in the sunlight, which can improve mood, boost immunity, and help you get some vitamin D. The economy is rough right now, and spending time outside is a no-cost option and has been shown to reduce stress, promote a sense of belonging and improve mood.

Improving cognitive and mental function. Physical activity keeps your mind sharp now and later. Studies show higher fitness levels are linked to better attention, learning, working memory and problem solving. What’s more, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows people who get the recommended amount of physical activity are less likely to develop depression.

If, like me, you haven’t been as active this winter as you should have been, walking is a great way to get back in the swing of things. And if you need a little nudge, make your walks a little more fun!

You might think of walking as a solo activity, but some company can make it even more pleasant. Get your family, or a friend to join you and make a whole thing of it!

Use your walk as a guilt-free opportunity to listen to a new audiobook or create a walking soundtrack of your favorite upbeat music.

Mix up your scenery. Taking new routes keeps your walks interesting and helps prevent boredom from traveling the same predictable path.

And of course — bring your furbaby! Dog parents are more likely to reach their fitness goals than those without canine companions. According to the Journal of Physical Activity & Health, dog parents are 34% more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking a week than non-dog owners. Pets can also help lower stress, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar and boost your overall happiness and well-being.