A man runs through a park full of trees as an awareness ribbon floats in the sky behind him. Adult male POC, senior, hope

New Year's Resolution: More Walking Please!

As a congestive heart failure patient, I am aware of the many benefits of engaging in regular physical activity. However I was surprised when I learned about some of the following upsides:1

  • Reduces heart disease risk factors
  • Strengthens the heart
  • Improves circulation
  • Helps increase energy levels
  • Improves muscle tone and strength
  • Improves balance and joint flexibility

The thing that struck out to me, and is something my heart failure doctor told me, is that it's not necessarily about your heart. Having a body that is in shape allows it to do more with less oxygen. Said another way, if remaining as functional as you can for as long as you can is a goal, start moving!

Making walking more fun

Walking is a terrific activity that can be done anytime (temperature permitting especially extreme hot and cold temps) and anywhere with minimal financial investment. However, walking by yourself can be boring at times. What can you do to make it more fun? My boyfriend (being a gamer) found a few games that help make the experience more engaging for both of us.

Pokemon Go and Pikmin Bloom are the two we have been playing. Pokemon Go is a game that literally REQUIRES walking as you have to go from one location to the next to 'catch pokemon.' Catching pokemon also requires some skill, so it's a mentally engaging activity. Additionally, there are community days where you not only meet other Pokemon hunters (who truly are just average people, not stereotypical gamers), but you get to take more steps than usual in the hunt to get as many Pokemon as you can.

Similar to Pokemon, Pikmin Bloom focuses on walking in real life. The goal is to grow Pikmin (which are honestly quite cute) and plant flowers. Like Pokemon, you can get as involved as you want. The graphics and audio of the game are also quite pleasing, and it is a good way to learn about various spots around your community.

Walking instead of driving

I can think of a few additional ways to increase your steps. First of all, we focus so much on getting in your car and driving. Are there places that are close enough that you can walkable instead? For instance, with temperature and weather permitting, my boyfriend and I used to talk to the grocery store instead of driving. He would wear a backpack to carry whatever we bought. As an added bonus, the physical restraint helped us shop more strategically and use what we had in the fridge instead of buying more.

Here are a few additional ideas:

  • Have you been a tourist in your own city? Are there architectural walks or new parks you can explore? It's amazing how we often do not fully know our own surroundings.
  • Perhaps you have a walking playlist with your favorite songs that you only play when you are walking.
  • Think about walking meditation. It may sound a bit too out there, but truly it's amazing what you might feel, hear and experience when you practice mindfulness while walking outside.

Lastly, thinking about how you frame your goals in a way that enhances success is a worthwhile activity. I have previously written an article about SMART goal setting, but there are loads of resources online. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, and using these parameters ensures that your goals are well defined and achievable within a certain time frame.

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