Take a hike

Courtesy Photo
The author’s wife Jenny LaGrange looks out over the Jasper Parklands on a late fall hike. Winter walking is a challenge but can be beneficial to one’s attitude and energy in these difficult times.


Getting outside this time of year is a challenge, especially for seniors like me. But I’ve found that a daily walk does me a lot of good. Most days Jenny and I get in at least a mile somewhere, unless it’s raining, snowing, or bitterly cold. The typical chill in Southern Indiana is not that bad, once you get used to it. Just ignore those weather maps that tell you about temperatures in Arizona or Florida. Make the best of what you’ve got here would be something my dad would’ve said. At least you’re not in Minnesota where my sister-in-law lives. Their winter weather is extreme. It’s balmy here in comparison.

Psychology Today article author Jeffrey Davis contends that walking stimulates creativity, citing a Stanford University study. Americans spend 87 percent of their time indoors, which increases in the winter. If you stay inside, you tend to stagnate. Outside, even if you’re chilly, the blood is flowing through your veins a lot better than is you were parked on the couch. Some of that is getting to your brain, which releases endorphins that help us feel and think better.

But you say, I enjoy my couch. It’s just too much work to walk or exercise, and it’s too dang cold. That’s where you and I must make a choice. Do you want to feel better overall? Have a better appetite? Feel more positive about life in general? Think of creative solutions to problems? Connect with friends? The thing is, improvement doesn’t just happen. It takes some effort, maybe quite a bit. But don’t start with doing five miles. Start with a short walk around the neighborhood, with a buddy if possible. In fact, if it’s not someone in your house, invite someone who’d like to go with you. If you can hold each other responsible for three times a week hiking/walking somewhere, life is going to look better to you. The added benefit is the social contact that we all so badly need.

Walking opportunities in our community are abundant. The Parklands complex is good for blending level areas with some Walking is free and doesn’t require special equipment or training, but you do want to be sure you wear supportive shoes. Huntingburg is a good hike. Jenny and I have just discovered the Ferdinand Old Town Lake trail—a hike around this lake with good nature views. Ferdinand also has the 18th St. Park walking path with its paved trails that take you from open areas into some woods. The Habig Center has a path around the property. The 4-H grounds feature an upper lake with a nice paved path. Or why not pick a neighborhood you haven’t seen and hike there? Or just head outside in your home area? Wherever you choose to explore, walking may stimulate your mind to new possibilities in your life, even in the midst of these difficult times.

According to the website, Better Health, 30 minutes a day is good, but more is better. Of course, seeing your doctor first might be a good idea before starting any new fitness regimen, especially if you’re overweight or haven’t exercised in a long time. Just a half-hour a day can increase cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. It can reduce your chances of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some cancers. The article cites a 2007 study of inactive women which found that even a low level of exercise—around 75 minutes a week—improves fitness levels significantly, compared to the couch-sitters.

Walking is free and doesn’t require special equipment or training, but you do want to be sure you wear supportive shoes. Getting the right footwear is vital. It’s also helpful to vary the pace, blending casual strolling with picking up the pace. Breathing cold air is not bad for you unless you have a respiratory condition. The burning sensation you might feel is not harmful. People in Minnesota are accustomed to it, as are snow skiers. Wearing a cloth mask may make breathing easier if it’s extremely cold, but if you have to wear glasses expect them to fog up some. If you can make walking part of your life routine, you’ll reap some nice benefits, and 2021 will be a healthier year. Keep track of your progress. Most smartphones are capable of telling you how many steps/miles you’ve done in a day. Take it slow and easy, and don’t burn out. The benefits are worth it, and you’ll be more prepared for spring and its more convenient opportunities for exercise.

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