By, Jill Beam
Walking is medicine for the body and soul
I love walking. Every time I walk, it’s my happy time. It wasn’t always that way, but now that I’m in a routine, I look forward to my walks.
In 2014, I had my left knee replaced. After eight weeks of rehab, I was ready to get some exercise. Unable for now to go back to teaching Jazzercise, the exercise I love most and taught for 42 years, I needed to find something else. That’s when I decided to start a walking practice. I started slowly and worked up to a half-mile. After some time I gradually increased to one mile. Now, eight years later, I walk three miles three times per week at my church on the track.
It wasn’t easy in the beginning. I had to force myself to go outside to start. It was easy to tell myself I didn’t have time or I was too tired.
How to get started with walking program for seniors
Some people say “Just do it”, but I understand that is sometimes easier said than done. However, it’s important to stop making excuses and simply get started. Create a plan where walking is scheduled as an activity on your calendar so you can’t use time as an excuse. Once you start, you will find that even if you are tired beforehand, you will have more energy afterwards.
Before you begin, take a little time to learn what it means to start a walking program safely. My first day I walked at a brisk pace without warming up and was very sore the next day. You can avoid the soreness and possible injury by spending a few minutes doing some simple warm-up exercises beforehand. Starting slowly and building up your speed and distance gradually is a good idea too.
Make sure you bring water with you, especially in the hot weather. And listen to your body to figure out when the best time to walk for you might be. I found that for me, it’s better to walk two hours before or after a meal.
How to stay motivated to continue your walking program
Ok, so let’s assume you have walking shoes, a water bottle and a plan in place. Perhaps you’ve been walking for a little while now and enjoy it. That’s great. How do you stay motivated so you will continue? Here are some tips that work for me.
Walk with a friend
Walking with a friend is a great idea for a variety of reasons. First, it helps for me to be accountable to someone else. You can’t just not show up if someone is waiting for you. Second, it’s a good time to socialize and catch up with a friend. Third, you can encourage each other’s progress.
Listen to music
When a friend is not available, but I want to get a walk in, I often put in my earpods and listen to my favorite upbeat music. It makes the time go by more quickly and helps me to increase my pace!
Think about the health benefits
You can really get your heart rate up with a brisk walk which burns fat and calories and provides cardiovascular benefits. Another benefit is that a regular walking practice boosts endorphins that can reduce stress hormones and help decrease stress and anxiety levels.
Change up your route
If you tend to get bored with the same scenery on your walk each time, change it up! Go a different direction or try a new park to help increase your motivation. I enjoy the meditative effects of nature and like to explore different areas for some variety.
Track your progress
It really motivates me to track my heart rate, distance and time so I can monitor my progress. Seeing progress is very encouraging! It doesn’t have to be fancy; a chart in a notebook you keep handy is all you need.
Incorporate a positive walking affirmation
A positive walking affirmation is a very important part of my walking program. Have you ever tried one? The one I like to say to myself is “I am getting better every day and I am unstoppable force of nature!
The bottom line
Regular exercise is an essential part of aging healthfully. The beauty of a walking program is that you can do it anywhere – all you need is a good pair of walking shoes. Start slowly and build up to a regular practice using the above tips to help you stay motivated. Remember, if you slip off your program, it’s OK. It happens to all of us. Forgive yourself and begin again!
About the author
A native Texan, Jill Beam grew up in Oak Cliff and graduated from DW Carter HS. After high school, she attended Dallas Baptist College, majoring in Physical Education and Recreation. Jill also has a degree in Gerontology from the University of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Jill began employment with the City of Dallas in 1972. She’s held many positions and retired after 28 years of service as the Athletic and Reservations Manager, in 2015. After retiring, Jill rewired herself and went to work with the City of Rowlett and City of Lewisville as the programmer of Senior Services, then moved on to Wellness Director at CC Young Senior Living Facility.
A certified Jazzercise Instructor, Jill has instructed classes since 1980 and trained many teachers. She also taps weekly with Class Act Tap Company, a group well known for tapping all over the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In addition, Jill has performed in the Spectacular Senior Follies for 10 years, where she participated both in the dance ensemble and a Follies Show Girl. Additionally Jill is Ms. Texas Senior America, 2015-2016 – She couldn’t wait until she turned 60 years young so she could compete!
Jill resides in Forney, TX and is married to Ken Beam, who also recently retired from the City of Dallas Park Department. She has two step children and three step grandchildren.