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Prairie Fare: Enjoy Spring With Regular Outdoor Walks

Walking can reduce our risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and several other diseases.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Center

“Well, did you see a hawk?” my 11-year-old daughter asked me.

I’m sure I looked at her with a confused expression on my face. My 19-year-old son and I had just returned from a two-mile walk around our neighborhood.

“Did you hear it squawk?” she continued with an impish grin on her face.

I now knew what she was doing. She was making me reminisce about something that happened years ago. When she was a toddler, she always wanted to come along on our walks. When she heard the word “walk,” she ran for her shoes.

However, she only walked for a block or two and then refused to ride in a stroller, so one of us would have a passenger on our shoulders for most of the two-mile trip. Usually she became very bored in the process and would ask to walk awhile and ride awhile. By the end, our backs were tired because she did not sit still.

My son and I began using a secret code when we decided to go for a walk. We used words that rhymed with “walk” so she would not be upset about missing out on the adventure. We were often looking for “hawks that squawk.” I think we visited “Spock” a few times, too.

As she grew older, she became more mobile and she was able to walk the entire way. Now she ignores us.

Walking with a buddy is a good way to stay motivated. Walking can reduce our risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and several other diseases. Walking can help us maintain or lose weight and can enhance our mental health.

According to a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, we may want to devote half of our lunch hour to walking to improve our physical and emotional health.

The study involved 56 adults who walked in groups for 30 minutes three times a week. They did not have to walk any certain distance during that time, so some walked slowly, while others walked at a more rapid pace. The walkers answered questions about how they were feeling before and after their walks using an app on their cellphones.

The workers who walked during their lunch break were more enthusiastic and relaxed during their afternoons. In other words, they could handle anything their afternoons dealt them. They also improved their overall fitness.

What if you have a disability that prevents you from walking? Consider other types of physical activity such as swimming or chair exercises as suggested by a medical-care provider.

Taking a walk does not require a lot of special equipment. As I looked down at my well-worn tennis shoes, I noted the need to invest in some new ones. They have a lot of miles on them. Some experts suggest ditching your walking shoes every 300 to 600 miles.

My kids also think I need some “cooler-looking” shoes.

I think a new pair of tennis shoes might be motivating, too. Before you go shopping, consider these tips:

  • Shop later in the day, when your feet may be a little larger than they are in the morning.
  • Wear the type of socks you will be wearing with the shoes. Sports-type socks are a lot thicker than dress socks.
  • Be sure to buy shoes that are large enough for your feet. Push down on the toe end of the shoe. Be sure you have about 1/2 inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. You should be able to move your toes.
  • Make sure the shoe is the right width. Shoes should not be too narrow or too wide or you are asking for blisters.
  • Walk or jog around the store. Your heels should not pop out of the back of the shoe.

Maybe I will be sporting some colorful new sneakers one of these days as I take walks with my son looking for hawks and reminiscing about Spock. We are continuing our long tradition of trying to stay fit, healthy and connected.

Here’s a quick pick-me-up snack that you can personalize with your favorite bite-sized cereals.

Chocolate Cereal and Fruit Snack Mix

1/4 c. butter or margarine

1 1/2 tsp. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa (optional)

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 c. bite-sized crisp rice squares cereal

1 1/2 c. bite-sized crisp wheat squares cereal

1 c. toasted oat rings cereal (such as Cheerios)

1/2 c. small graham crackers (such as Teddy Grahams)

3/4 c. dried fruit bits (such as dried cranberries)

1/2 c. chocolate chips

In 4-quart microwave-safe bowl, place butter or margarine. Microwave on high for one minute or until melted. Stir in sugar, cocoa and cinnamon. Add cereals and graham crackers. Stir until evenly coated. Microwave on high three minutes, stirring each minute. Stir in dried fruit. Microwave on high for three minutes, stirring each minute. Cool completely. Stir in chocolate chips. Store in tightly covered container or portion into snack-sized zip-top bags. Store in a cool, dry place.

Makes 22 (1/4-cup) servings. Each serving has 100 calories, 4 grams (g) of fat, 1 g of protein, 15 g of carbohydrate, 1 g of fiber and 30 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – March 19, 2015

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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