As the hot summer days drive folks into air conditioned rooms, the outdoors beckon on summer mornings and evenings. With the sun less intense activities are more enjoyable.

Being active is key to boosting positive attributes. Energy, mood, sleep quality and even self-esteem all are enhanced by an active lifestyle. Regular bodily activity can reduce stress and ward off depression and even dementia.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, everyone should get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days a week. Light exercise for just ten minutes, three times a day is very healthful.

Keeping the body moving equates to keeping the body strong. Anyone who works on a computer should develop the habit of jumping up regularly for a quick walk.

Brisk walking is one of the most natural ways to get needed exercise. The publication “Focus on Healthy Aging” cites walking studies. Those who walk briskly daily generally have greater longevity.

As is the case with most moderate exercise, sauntering in the outdoors is healthful. Walking, though, with a certain amount of speed is particularly associated with improved health. Walking at a quick pace builds body strength while adding flexibility to muscles and nerves.

To get the best benefits of walking, certain targeted areas of the body need extra strengthening. Strong leg muscles are necessary for an enjoyable walking experience.

Several easy exercises can strengthen leg muscles. Simply sitting in a chair and using the legs to pull up into a standing position can add strength. The key is to do the quick exercise several times repeatedly.

Another quick exercise requires a stair step. Stand on the front of a step on only the front half of both feet. Using arms for support, lower heels below the step level and come up again. Repeat several times.

One simple exercise involves rising to tiptoes and then relaxing back to put pressure on heels. Before doing repetitions of this exercise, stand near a wall or chair to grab and regain balance if needed.

Stretches can condition legs for improved walking. Begin by lying on the left side. Raise the right leg and move it backwards as far as possible. Hold and then return to resting position. Then, repeat. Then do the exercise on the other side.

Brain function is an important part of meaningful walking. While walking, be mentally aware of doing so with a purpose. Seek consciously to increase speed in short spurts.

Engage the brain by walking sideways for a few moments or by taking a few steps forward and then one back. When moving an object or walking while carrying something, be aware of walking as a form of movement.

Make walking more rhythmical by counting or listening to music. Try marching in place.

Regularly stepping over objects while walking strengthens brain function as well as body performance. For safety, practice by putting objects on the floor of a room. Feel how the body moves differently while stepping over something. Notice the adjustments the body makes to step over as opposed to simply striding along.

While step counting can be motivation, it is by no means necessary. The 10,000 steps a day myth was created in the 1960s by a company marketing step counting technology. For those who want to try step counting, start slowly. Add a thousand daily steps, week by week, to reach a steps per day goal.

As always, consult a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regime. Walk outdoors daily to enjoy the benefits of living locally.

(Janet Miller’s e-book, Family Prayers and Activities: Weekly Guides, is for families or prayer groups. Janet is the creator of Friends on the Way an e-resource for churches to teach families about the Bible and discipleship. Find it at

Janet Miller

Janet Miller is a freelance writer specializing in family faith. She offers Family Prayers and Activities: Weekly Guides on compact disc for families to explore the Bible together. Email