This may sound like a strange title, but a colleague recommended I read an article by Katy Bowman (who is big on nutritious movement) called 13 ways to make your walk more nutritious. I thought it was a great way to encourage people to walk more often and more ‘nutritionally’ (getting more variety in their walking).
Her tips are all logical, but walking nutritionally was not something I had thought about or recommended before. Bowman talks about the way walking offers a broad range of nutrients as a category, but you must make sure you’re not consuming only one type of walk, just as you wouldn’t eat just one type of food. I have adapted her tips to make them more appropriate for seniors.
Wear minimal shoes
What are minimal shoes? These are shoes with no arch support or heel. They allow the foot and other body parts to move in diverse ways. While I agree with this in principle, we must be careful when applying it. Many readers will have issues with their feet and shifting to this kind of shoes will cause problems if not done properly. I would recommend first spending more time barefoot and moving your feet more (with a tennis or massage ball, as recommended in the chapter on balance), in the safety and comfort of your home. If you are changing to less supportive footwear, start slowly and initially only wear the new shoes for short walks. As with your exercises, you need to build up the time you wear them gradually. I wear these minimal shoes (or even go barefoot) when I am on the grass in a park. I think it takes me back to my childhood, and it makes me happy.
Add what I call vitamin texture
Walking over lumps and bumps moves the foot joints more, creating loads that wouldn’t normally occur. Normal paths don’t offer much to mobilise these joints. Look to the side of the path for lumps and bumps if your balance is up to it. (If you feel unsteady, it is best to leave this one alone.)
Add vitamin terrain such as hills or slopes
Walking uphill and downhill uses the muscles differently compared to walking on the flat.
Go with a group
Walking with others changes your pace. This means that your body is working differently. Also, group walking can change your mood, which will also affect how you walk. Besides, it is more fun and you will get some jaw exercise as well.
Ditch the technology
I’m not sure if this applies to you, but the number of people I see walking with their head down looking at their phone is crazy. I agree with this point, but I suspect there are not as many phone addicts among our readers.
Add some other technology
If listening to music energises you and helps motivate you to walk, use it. Another positive option is to load an audiobook and go for a long walk once a month. This combines the best of both worlds, benefiting your mind and your body at the same time.
Carry something, and change the way you hold it
This means you are constantly changing the muscles used. It is great for your postural muscles, not to mention your balance.
Walk with a child
Walking slower than normal encourages your body to work differently, using the muscles in a different manner. I walk with my daughter, who varies between slow walking, running, walking in a straight line, zigzagging, bending down to look at a flower, and collecting various things along the way. She also needs to be carried for a while (as I have said, carrying is good for you). These are things that you couldn’t get away with on your own
Go somewhere new
Walking in a familiar place can make you switch to autopilot. You can become more alert again by changing direction, walking in a loop, or even changing the side of the road that you walk on.
Gather (or hunt!)
Walking upright isn’t as nutritious as stopping to bend, reaching for a leaf and stepping over things. Again, grandchildren come in handy for this.
Use your buttocks more
Tips 1 and 3 will help with this. People’s buttock muscles are more likely to be nutrient-deficient if they are only walking on flat ground in ultra-supportive footwear. Focus on squeezing them as you walk. The occasional squeeze will do. Activating these crucial muscles can also help relieve back pain as well as improve strength, posture and balance.
Aim for 12,000 steps a day rather than the recommended 10,000 steps. Every little bit extra counts. Or if 5,000 steps is your usual, aim for 6,000.
Walk more frequently
Instead of doing one big walk during the day, aim to break your walking up into smaller blocks. I take the stairs wherever possible, or walk to the shops.
While not all of these tips may be appropriate for you and your circumstances, I feel that you would benefit from incorporating at least one or two of them into your walking. So, if you walk regularly, how can you make it more ‘nutritious’?