Walking Makes the Grade

The Mayo Clinic gives tips on how to make your next walk a mood-enhancing experienceâ€"something the cardiac patient recovering from a recent event can put into practice.

One of the first activities a cardiologist tells a patient recovering from a cardiac event to attempt is walking. As soon as the patient is home, and feeling up to it, a walking program is often instituted. Perhaps the first of the series is just 200 yards; I remember carefully doing just that several days after my event, and that it prepared me for cardiac rehab.

I still like to walk, especially after working evenings when I haven’t been to the gym. Not only is a 1.2-mile walk around the neighborhood on a spring evening good for you, it also can help clear your mind and put matters at peace.

A fascinating article in the April edition of the Mayo Clinic Embody Health newsletter certainly seemed to fit with what I look to accomplish on foot on certain days. The advice on “walking in the moment’’ is good for any recovering cardiac patient, not to mention anybody.

Walking, in addition to helping your physical fitness, can:

  • Help you relax. By focusing on your walk, you give your mind a break from processing dozens of thoughts.
  • Teach you to begin to approach life with a moment of stillness. You learn to carry this kind of focused thinking into the rest of the day.

The Mayo Clinic also gives tips on how to make your next walk a mood-enhancing experience—something the cardiac patient recovering from a recent event can put into practice:

  • Start with a moment of stillness. By focusing on your walk, the article advises, before you take one step, set the goal of taking a focused walk. Give your mind a moment to slow down.
  • Connect your mind and body as you walk, feel the weight transferring from the heel to the ball of the foot. Aim for a fluid stride and enjoy the rhythm.
  • Follow each breath in and out, as focusing on your breathing can help you stay in the moment. A patient in cardiac recovery lives in the moment.
  • Experience your surroundings, perhaps smell the bloom of lilacs, feel a gentle breeze or hear children playing. The cost I know is nothing, the feeling can be, as they say, “priceless.’’
  • Mind your thoughts. If an unwanted thought — or worry – pops into your head, recognize it and let it float away. Simply refocus your attention on your surroundings.

After your walk is done, take a few moments to reflect on want you saw, heard and how your body felt. Resolve to bring this expanded awareness into the rest of your day and into your next walk.

What drew me in to the newsletter article, and allowed me to get below the surface of it and read between the lines, was how striking the advice was. As I took my first walks after my heart attack, I tried to do many things the piece mentioned. And the best thing that came out of all of it was those thoughts, attitudes and feelings stay with me, whether on the treadmill or simply walking like I did the other evening.

By the way, the American Heart Association (AHA) labeled April 16 “Let’s Start Walking Day.’’ Let’s keep it going.