Wake Up And Walk! 7 Benefits Of Taking A Morning Stroll

By Nick Parkinson, M.Ed., AT, ATC, TSAC-F
Henry Ford Health System

May 3, 2022

Henry Ford Health SystemStill having difficulty fitting exercise into your day? Start by heading out for a morning walk.

No matter your fitness level, walking offers tremendous benefits, including improving your mood, managing your weight, increasing your energy and reducing your risk for disease. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes and a place to stroll.

7 Benefits Of A Morning Walk

Starting your day with a morning walk helps you check something important off your daily to-do list – your fitness.

Even if you only have time for a 10-minute walk each morning, you’ll have up to 70 minutes of exercise by the end of the week. And any type of movement that you add in later in the day, whether it’s taking the stairs or walking to your car at the far end of the parking lot, improves your overall health.

Morning walks offer many benefits, helping to:

Boost your inner athlete. Taking a morning walk boosts your stamina, flexibility and energy. As your fitness improves, you’ll be able to move through your daily activities more easily.

Improve your mood. Getting outside gives you a chance to enjoy fresh air and nature. Walking, like any form of exercise, reduces stress and anxiety. You’ll start the day with a positive attitude, better able to manage challenges during the day.

Increase your productivity. After a morning walk, you feel energized and ready to take on the day. Starting your day with physical activity improves your concentration and productivity.

Keep you standing tall. Many of us are sitting at work or school for several hours each day, often without watching our posture. Walking with your shoulders back and head held up improves posture. Walking also improves your core muscles, which help support your spine.

Manage your weight. After a full night’s sleep, walking helps jump-start your metabolism, allowing you to burn calories at a faster rate. Along with a healthy diet, walking can help manage weight.

Reduce your risk for disease. A regular walking routine can reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity and some cancers.

Strengthen your bones. Our bodies are constantly making new bone and breaking down old bone. After age 50, we lose bone mass as our bodies break down old bone at a faster rate. Along with a healthy diet, weight-bearing exercise like walking strengthens your bones and reduces your risk for osteoporosis.

How To Start Your Morning Walk Routine

Keep these strategies in mind as you plan your morning stroll:

Eat a light snack before you walk. After sleeping all night, it’s helpful to eat a light snack or breakfast before heading out the door. Toast with almond butter or some yogurt with nuts and berries can give you the energy you need, especially if you’re planning a longer walk.

Check out different walking routes or events. On a busy morning, you may choose to walk close to home to save time. When your schedule permits, explore different neighborhoods, nature preserves or trails in your area. You may also want to check out local 5K races — many of these events welcome walkers.

Don’t forget to stretch. After walking, take a few minutes to stretch your leg muscles to work out any knots in your calves, hamstrings or thighs.

Increase impact with weights and intervals. As you build your stamina, boost the benefits of your walk by holding light weights or wearing a weighted vest. Try turning your walk into an interval training session by alternating between a fast and slow pace.

Prepare for the weather. To avoid falling on icy winter sidewalks, wear proper boots and spikes. Wear hats, scarves and gloves to protect your skin from frostbite. Wear a hat and sunscreen in the summer heat. Carry a water bottle to stay hydrated, especially on longer walks.

Schedule your morning walks. Add a morning walk to your calendar and keep the appointment. Over time, morning walks can become a habit you won’t want to give up.

Walk with a buddy. Find a walking partner who will hold you accountable for your commitment to exercise. To enjoy even more socializing as you walk, check out walking groups in your community.

To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Nick Parkinson, M.Ed., AT, ATC, TSAC-F Supervisor of Athletic Training with Henry Ford Sports Medicine, also leads Sports Performance training at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine. He is a regular contributor to Henry Ford LiveWell. Learn more about Nick

Sports Injuries & Student Athletes: A Parent’s Guide

March 7, 2023

Playing sports is a great way for children of all ages to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It also builds confidence and teaches them valuable life lessons, like working as a team and the value of hard work. While it may be every sports fanatic’s dream to have their kid make it big time in the arena or on the diamond, sometimes pushing young athletes to be the best at a young age can lead to serious injuries that will take them out of the game altogether.

Henry Ford Health"Sports help with physical and psychological well-being," says Matthew Santa Barbara, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. "However, year-round participation in a single sport at a young age can lead to overuse injuries and mental burnout."

Nowadays, many kids will start playing one sport at a young age and continue to play that same sport year-round for years. This can be harmful to your child because his or her soft tissue and bone structures aren't fully developed. Furthermore, the pressures of year-round participation and focus on excelling, rather than enjoyment, can negatively affect a young athlete's mental health.

Basketball causes the most injuries among high schoolers, causing many visits to the emergency room each year for stressed and torn ankle ligaments. In baseball, the Tommy John surgery, a procedure to reconstruct torn ligaments in the elbow after overuse, has also been increasingly used to treat young athletes still in high school.

How To Prevent Sports Injuries

Preparing your children appropriately before a sports season begins and supporting them during the season is important. Dr. Santa Barbara offers four key pieces of advice to help your youth athletes avoid injury.

1. Don’t limit your child to one sport. Playing a variety of sports in different seasons is a great way to work different parts of the body. When your child gets older, they can make the transition to playing a single sport they are good at and enjoy.

2. Warm up. Make sure your child is properly warming up before they play any sport. Dynamic warmups--incorporating exercises that involve moving the body such as lunges, high knees and arm circles – are preferable to stretching alone.

3. Strengthen core muscles. Building up core strength takes pressure off joints in the arms and legs. It gives young athletes more momentum and can help improve their performance.

4. Abide by rest rules. Many schools and sports leagues have rules in place to limit how many teams kids are on or how often they play. Follow these to ensure your child is allowing time for their joints and muscles to recover from physical activity.

Children participating in a sport should never push through pain, and injuries should be promptly evaluated by a sports medicine physician. Physical injuries are often more obvious, while mental health issues due to sports participation can be more subtle. Symptoms such as fatigue and declining performance can be signs of burnout. In these situations, rest is also important.

"Sports should be fun for kids," says Dr. Santa Barbara. "Avoiding single-sports specialization at a young age keeps the focus on enjoyment while reducing the physical and psychological risks of year-round participation."

To find a sports medicine provider at Henry Ford Health, visit henryford.com/sportsmedicine or call 313-651-1969.

Matthew Santa Barbara, M.D., is a non-operative sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. He sees patients at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Henry Ford Medical Center - Columbus, Henry Ford Medical Center - Bloomfield Township and Henry Ford Medical Center - Fairlane.