Stride forward


The holiday season is in full swing, and with it come the joys and tribulations of extra treats, visits with family and friends, and upsets in daily routines. For many of us, December means our regular exercise schedules are discarded like torn gift wrap. 

The holidays don’t have to create extra pounds, reduced endurance or crankiness. The trick is to figure out an exercise alternative that fits into your day, no matter how out of whack it is. 

Walking is one exercise that works for almost anyone. Here are five unexpected benefits:


 1. It’s great for your heart

We all have different fitness levels. If you run marathons, you might not think walking will get your heart pumping. Yet walking has so many heart benefits it’s even recommended for those recovering from heart attacks and surgeries. 

Dr. John Keleman, a cardio-thoracic surgeon with TenetHealth, the owner of Hilton Head and Coastal Carolina hospitals, includes walking as part of cardiac rehabilitation for his patients.

“Since walking is self-modulated, everyone can find their own appropriate level of exertion,” he said. Keleman advises cardio patients to start walking as soon as possible after surgery but not to over-exert or go alone.

2. Walking goes where you go

Walking requires basically no equipment. Being prepared for a good walking workout is as simple as keeping comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and shoes on your packing list. Sometimes it’s even possible to walk to errands or shopping.

3. Walking allows you time and space for yourself

Let’s face it: being surrounded by friends and relatives for hours on end isn’t everyone’s cup of pumpkin or gingerbread spice. One advantage to walking, especially in mild Lowcountry weather, is that it takes you away from the chaos. When you want a little alone time or need to clear your head, a good walk gives you time to think.

4. Walking gives you time to catch up with others in a low-pressure environment

Alternately, walking with a friend or family member gives you time to catch up on things you might not hear about at the Christmas dinner table. We all have that one friend or family member who makes us laugh with less-appropriate humor, knows all the family gossip, or just makes us feel joyful. If you have such a person, time with them can be a breath of fresh air. 

Keneman reminds us: “You have somebody to talk to and someone who can hold you accountable while being on the lookout for your well-being. 

5. Walking allows you to see places in a new light and go where you couldn’t otherwise

The Lowcountry has incredible trails and outdoor spaces. Whether you’re here or elsewhere during the holidays, walking allows you to get a different sense of the area. Most places have walking or hiking clubs, and the internet can be a great resource for finding good paths. Looking up walking tours in a new city can be a fun way to take in sites while keeping your blood flowing.

Remember, one of the blessings you can give yourself in January is a good exercise routine in December. Walking is a great way to achieve that.