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LIFETALK: The walking cure

May 29, 2014
By ROBERTA RUSSELL , Lake Placid News

If you enjoy walking, have good intentions and are willing and able to pay attention to another person, you have a very powerful treatment for demoralization - both yours and your partners' - in your personal arsenal.

Here in Lake Placid, I usually awake by 6 a.m., eager for life, knowing that I have a walk coming up with a friend right after breakfast. This healthful pattern of an early walk used to elude me, but the thought of meeting an interesting and attentive walking partner is a terrific incentive for me. Whether in the context of professional therapy or on a walk, attention is the single most active ingredient in the cure for demoralization. Everyone you spend time with affects you for better or worse. When choosing a walking partner, your awareness is vital.

It's not just my regular morning walks, alone or with a partner, that center me and make me happy, but the walks I share with friends who enrich my life. My world expands as we share stories and priorities.

The buddy system is a great motivator.

I know people who wake up and directly meet a friend to start the day with a walk. Without that incentive, they do not go, especially when it is cold outside. Finding a reliable and caring walking partner may not be easy to come by, but it is certainly one of life's treasures, well worth the effort to try to find and develop, if you are socially inclined.

More and more people are discovering the joys of walking. Alone or together, it tends to improve one's overall sense of well-being and happiness.

The renowned poet, William Wordsworth, reveled in the solitary walk: "The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do, just as one pleases." That freedom along with the feast of the breath-taking environment we enjoy here in Lake Placid is also delightful.

According to the American Heart Association, walking reduces the risk of coronary disease, improves blood pressure, lipid profile, blood sugar levels, osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer and non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes. In addition to all of that, they report that it enhances mental well-being. There are so many benefits from something so attainable.

The National Institute of Mental Health has found that walking improves fitness and self-esteem. It can create an opportunity for stress-free, time-limited, non-caloric socializing. Fitness makes you better able to cope with life's challenges. It provides an opportunity to set and achieve goals. You can even create an environment for mutual alliance therapy ( That's not for everyone, but if you are up to the challenge and so inclined, you may be in for a treat.

For instance, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, walking is the easiest exercise to fit into your life and keep up, whether inside or out. A partner may make you more committed. Nevertheless, walking by itself, with or without a partner, will not get your extra weight off. For that you have to create a calorie deficit. To keep it off, you must maintain a calorie-versus-energy equilibrium. Although I used to be obese 14 years ago, walking and accountably logging the food and the calories that I eat as well as those that I burn has kept me fit for all of these years.

Weight-loss and maintenance, both very hard for the two-thirds of the population that suffer from this problem, are not the only salutary goals that can be augmented by the buddy system. Any constructive goal can be pursued by a mutually therapeutic alliance.

Whatever method you employ in context of walking will be enhanced by the increased endorphins and feelings of well-being generated by the walk. Freud did not sit with patients all day, but sometimes did therapy while walking, too.

Alone or together with a friend, put on your most comfortable shoes, get out your all-weather clothes and walk. Perhaps you will also increase your options?

Roberta Russell is the founder of the World-Wide Calorie & Exercise Logging Group ( She is the author of "RD Laing & Me: Lessons in Love" and "Report on Effective Psychotherapy: Legislative Testimony."



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