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Overcome the obstacles and keep walking!

9 Jan

Nico, tango and I taking a rest after walking!

It’s true, it’s wintertime and it’s cold outside. If you are like me, the cold weather is not going to stop you from taking a walk outside. I understand that It’s much easier to sit inside on a frigid, blustery day and read a book, under a blanket while sipping a mug of tea but this can make it difficult for us to find that motivation we had, not too long ago on January 1st to exercise and get fit. The cold weather is only one of the many barriers that exists when trying to implement a physical activity routine, especially one focused on walking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists obstacles such as sidewalk conditions, crosswalks, lack of daylight in the winter, and safety from traffic and crime. But when we really think about it, we know that exercise is a necessary part of our daily routine. So if you won’t go outside for a walk because of one of these reasons, how you can get in 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of physical activity without being in fear of freezing our feet off? Mall walking! While this isn’t a new idea, or even a very creative one, the mall is extremely underutilized for those who wish to exercise. Shopping malls can offer some of the best perks, such as:

  1. Temperature-controlled building
  2. Easy to access bathrooms
  3. Free water fountains
  4. Flat and level walking route
  5. Well-lit and safe environment with a security presence
  6. Benches to rest
  7. No membership required, so family and friends can walk with you

Call a friend and go to the mall to walk. Research studies further suggest that when individuals exercise with a friend who is also motivated, they are more likely to exercise longer, harder and enjoy it more. The American Heart Association states that walking 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers.

Is walking in the mall challenging? Use the talk test. The talk test will determine if you are exercising at a moderate or vigorous level of activity. If you’re walking at a moderate pace, you should be able to talk, but not sing. Vigorous activity occurs when you are not able to say more than a few words without having to stop. If you walk into the vigorous zone, slow down or take a quick break to lower your heartrate to a moderate level.

Most malls open their front doors at least an hour early for mall walkers to have free reign. This is probably the easiest time to get your steps in, since you will not have to maneuver around crowds coming in and out of stores. It’s up to you if you want to tackle walking the stairs for a workout bonus.

So step into the land of department stores with your pair of walking shoes and have fun this winter! For more information on increasing your level of physical activity and walking, see the tips on UGA Extension website at

Kristen Sumpter, UGA Extension Agent wrote the “Mall walking” article, I expanded on it and used it for this week’s blog.



Laughter and health

2 Oct

Hearty laughter may lower your blood pressure, increase your heart rate, reduce stress, ease muscle tension, improve your breathing, boost mental function, and burn calories! Imagine nurturing your body and mind with all of these health benefits when you laugh.

HPIM1121Imagine being prescribed laughter for weight loss. It is not as silly as it sounds. Doctor William Fry Jr. coined the terms “internal aerobics” and “stationary jogging” to describe the physical effects of a good belly laugh. His research found that laughter, like physical exercise speeds up heart rate, expands circulation and enhances oxygen intake. In fact, he calculated that 100 to 200 belly-laughs a day is the equivalent of a high-impact workout that can help you burn off as many as 500 calories.

In addition, laughter has been known to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone in our body), ease muscle tension and increase the body’s T-Cell count (type of white blood cell that circulate around our bodies, scanning for cellular abnormalities and infections).

In the book Laughter, A Scientific investigation by Robert R. Provine’s, it is stated that laughter can be instrumental in brain health programs. The psychological benefits of laughter include: increased catecholamine (known to boost mental function), increased pain tolerance levels, and reduced levels of stress which produces an emotional high.

Promote laughter by spending time reminiscing funny events and special celebrations or watching old and new movies. Here is a simple routine to follow that can promote a healthy lifestyle and help you prevent disease:

  • Eat a healthy diet everyday
  • Exercise, even if it is walking a few extra steps each day
  • Get enough sleep at night to feel rested
  • Drink water instead of high sugar drinks and soda
  • Spend time with people who are important to you
  • Laugh, laugh, and laugh – because hearty laughter has a positive relationship to a healthy lifestyle.