A note from Lee: Thanks to our guest blogger, Lisa Sanderson, for this post. Lisa is a a freelance writer and nutritionist covering topics as diverse as the latest in health research, green food production, family nutrition and health, living with conditions and health education.
Mary Scerbo and Ernie Scerbo with pet dog Bender, stand at the serenity garden at their Leamington home on July 18, 2013. In memory of their late son, they are holding a fundraising walkathon at their residence on the weekend. (JASON KRYK/The Windsor Star)
In July, the city of Saratoga was awarded two medals for its efforts to fight childhood obesity. As well as providing affordable, healthy food to its residents, the city hosted three walking events to encourage activity among children: Walk-One-Week, Walk-A-Thon and Let’s Walk! The city’s campaign highlighted the importance of activity to physical well being, and demonstrated the positive impact that a walkathon can have on a community. Making a walkathon fun for kids can get them involved from an early age, and give them a better chance of staying healthy later on.
The driving force behind any walkathon may be charity and the desire to help others through fundraising, but what about the other benefits that it can offer? As well as the physical health benefits of walking, there are mental health benefits, too. Walkathons really are an excellent opportunity to get a community together, and you may find that you are helping individuals in more ways than one.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits of walking, such as maintaining a healthy weight and increasing fitness, there are some more interesting physical benefits of this sociable form of exercise.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is evidence to suggest that walking can reduce pain caused by arthritis, as well as decreasing fatigue and improving function and quality of life. The advantage of walking over other forms of exercise is that it has a lower impact on joints than running does, for example. As a result of the joint pain, those suffering from arthritis are often less active than those without arthritis, but regular exercise could be beneficial in the long run Walking can also be of use in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. Medical News Today (MNT) reports that older people could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by taking short walks after meals.
More and more studies are revealing the benefits that exercise – specifically walking – can have for mental health. PsychCentral reported a study carried out by a professor from the University of Maryland School of Public Health that revealed that older adults could boost their memory recall and brain function through exercise. However, it is not just brain function that can be improved but also mood. Increasing evidence suggests that aerobic exercises can reduce anxiety and depression. Exercises programs are therefore often integrated into rehabilitation programs for those recovering from mental illness such as depression or addiction. Patients at rehabilitation centers, for example, are often encouraged, if not required, to follow an exercise program to help treat such illnesses as codeine addiction or bipolar disorder. The advantage of walking over other forms of exercise is that it is accessible to a wider group of people, and is more sociable. Group walks, for example, create excellent opportunities to talk to others without the pressure of being in a one-to-one environment, and all in a more beautiful setting than a small office or patient room.
One family in Leamington, Utah recently decided to host a walkathon in memory of their late son, Gio, who had faced mental health challenges. He had been a participant in a psychotherapy program at a local hospital, and so the family hoped to raise awareness and funds to support the program. The Windsor Star reports that the aim of the walk is not only to remember Gio: “they are also doing this for everyone with mental illness to let them know they’re not alone.” It is this sense of community and helping others that is at the heart of every walkathon, and with all the added health benefits of walking, it’s hard to see why anyone would not want to host one.
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