"Walking is the best possible exercise," said Thomas Jefferson.1 Our third President believed at the turn of the 19th century what science confirms today—walking can improve physical and mental health.
Walking is a healthy activity that can make us feel better and improve how we feel. In recent months, scientists have confirmed what many of us knew already––that these effects take place right away—often within 30 minutes. With that kind of discovery, it’s time to get up and go for a walk! What can walking do for you and your family?
Walking can show your kids healthy ways to manage stress. Your kids likely can tell when you’re feeling overwhelmed or tense. How you deal with those feelings sends them a powerful message. Perhaps you have your own set of positive stress-busters like listening to music, reading a book, taking a bath, or working in a garden. Add walking to the list! It’s a fun, free, easy activity.
Here are just a few benefits of regular physical activity for growing children:
Tell your kids, "I'm having a rough day. I’m going for a walk." See if 30 minutes of brisk walking helps your feel better and improves your outlook. Your kids will notice the positive change in you! When they see how you use walking as a tool to manage stress, they are more likely to use it themselves.
Walking and other physical activities can give your children a great foundation for a healthy life. Children who lead active lifestyles are likely to remain active as adults and pass on healthy lifestyle habits to their own children. Kids who exercise sleep better at night and can handle challenges more easily during the day—from carrying a heavy backpack to finding lost homework.
Walking together as a family provides a chance to “get in step” with your child. When you go for a walk, you leave distractions like the TV and Internet at home, and you may find that this makes it easier to talk with your child. It also may be easier for some kids to open up as they walk. Have you ever tried to talk with your child and all he could do was shuffle his feet and look at the ground? Just like it can be hard for you to start a conversation about certain topics, it can be hard for your child to tell you when something is bothering him. When you go for a walk, the change of scenery and the natural rhythm of exercise can help you both relax. You may find that you’re better able to bring up tough topics and talk with your child without him feeling "put on the spot."
When you’re walking with your child, make sure you give each other your full attention! Don’t let music devices or cell phones interrupt this special time.
If you have more than one child, try to set aside time so that each gets a one-on-one walk with you on a regular basis. Having some special time with mom or dad can help your child develop a close bond with you.
Walking can strengthen you and your family. Walking—whether you do it alone or with your children—can strengthen your family. You’ll build your physical and mental health as well as your family bonds. Look for ways to make walking part of your family’s routine. Instead of watching TV after dinner, put on your sneakers and step outside. If your child is up early, go for a morning walk. By walking together, you’ll show your child how to manage stress, maintain physical health, and connect with the people you love.