All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. – Friedrich Nietzsche
I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease in the spring of 2010. Before I started experiencing shortness of breath, I had no clue that the arteries in my heart were blocked. Heart disease runs in my family as it has claimed the lives of both of my grandmothers as well as my mother in 2009. My Dad has had two open heart surgeries since 2003. I have since had an angioplasty and had a stent inserted into my coronary artery. Stents are tiny, expandable mesh tubes that hold arteries open allowing for more blood to get to my heart.
I recovered nicely and now take a number of different medications for my heart that I will be on for the rest of my life. But I’m not out of the woods just yet. I will also have open heart surgery in the future. I just don’t know when it will happen. It’s a little scary knowing that one day I’ll be on that operating table with my chest opened up only to later awaken with tubes in my nose and throat.
Before my diagnosis, I was healthy as a horse, a real exercise fanatic. Since then I have had to drastically change my routine. I can no longer jog like I used to and I miss it so much. I miss the endorphin rush I used to get from my long bike rides from the south end of Niagara Falls to Queenston Heights. I miss my hour-long jogs and my intense weightlifting sessions.
Sometimes I would combine my jogging and weightlifting into one extensive workout. I tried jogging a few times after my heart procedure but it just left me short of breath and caused my heart to race rapidly. Cycling is now out of the question and lifting heavy weights like I used could prove fatal. What was I going to do with myself now? Walk? How pedestrian!
Thankfully I’ve always found walking to be a very relaxing and therapeutic pursuit. Much like a good nap, it gives me a chance to escape from the world for a couple of hours and forget about all the stresses in my life.
The health benefits of walking are immeasurable. Walking helps to burn calories while improving your heart and cardiovascular health. It improves your mood and lowers your stress level. It helps to build aerobic fitness while maintaining strong bones. Walking is a low-impact activity which helps to prevent exercise-related injuries. I actually prefer walking over jogging now. It doesn’t put the strain on my body that running usually did.
When you first start walking, you’ll likely develop shin splints and your feet will cramp up. That will dissipate in time. Just keep at it. When I get back from my walks I have aches and pains but after a nice warm shower, I feel this wonderful sense of accomplishment.
It is vital that you purchase a quality pair of running shoes to fully maximize your walking experience. I have fallen arches so finding the right pair of shoes for me is of the utmost importance. Ill-fitting shoes cause painful blisters and you want to be comfortable when you’re heading out for a walk. Rain or shine I will be out there walking. People think I’m crazy when I’m out there walking in the bitter cold, but I find it exhilarating.
I walk by the Falls every day and never grow tired of the natural beauty that serves as the backdrop for my daily exercise. And while I still miss my old workout regime, I have come to appreciate all of the benefits that I’ve gained from walking. Having to take a step back has enabled me to make several strides forward both emotionally and physically.
Walking is man’s best medicine. – Hippocrates
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