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Walk with a Purpose

Humans were made for walking. With our upright posture, agile joints, and strong leg muscles, our bodies were literally designed with walking in mind -- which is what makes it such perfect exercise. It's kind to our bodies and great for our waistlines. And best of all, it's a great way to see new things and meet new people!

This month, why not focus on walking with a purpose? Wherever you are, in the city or at the campground, you'll find plenty of walking going on. Studies have shown that taking a walk every day significantly reduces your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and it even lowers stress levels. Recently, science has been uncovering a link between walking and a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer's, proving that walking is even good for your brain. And as if you needed another reason to get out a walk, it's also a terrific way to get fit and to stay in great shape. Maybe you already love to walk, but you're getting tired of tracing your same old route day after day -- or maybe you're new to walking and aren't sure how to get started. Either way, it's time to embrace the idea of walking with a purpose.

To get started, sit down with a map and make a plan. Ask yourself, what do you want to get out of walking aside from the health benefits? Do you want to meet other people? See new places? Get out into the wilderness or explore a city? Knowing your priorities will help you decide on the type of walk you want to do.

If making friends and socializing is your goal, call up your friends and schedule walks with them. Ask your friends where they like to walk and go there, since this will introduce you to new places and trails. Go online and look up your local mall or shopping center. Many malls have groups that come every day, or every weekend, to "walk the mall." These groups are always happy to include one more walker!

By the same token, you might find open groups of dog walkers at your local park. Your RV park might conduct group walks and hikes or your campground personnel might know about fun local walking groups your can join. And be sure to stay on the lookout for charity walks. In cities large and small all over the country, walks are going on almost every weekend in support of cancer research, diabetes research, and other humanitarian causes.

If solitary walks are what you're after, ask about local hikes that get you out of town and into the wilderness or countryside. Folks who are touring in an RV or car can stop at the local ranger's station or tourist bureau to ask about scenic trails that will get them away from it all. This might be just the way to find that perfect trail, getting you off the beaten path. Many large cities have incredible gardens and parks that include groomed walking trails. There are meditation walks, where you can trace a labyrinth pattern, and arboretum trails, garden walks, and sculpture parks. Thanks to the Rails to Trails program, railways across the country are being transformed into scenic walking and biking paths that are a perfect way to explore new territory.

Headed to a new city? Then tie on your walking shoes and prepare to get to know the place from the ground up! Many of our great historic cities offer detailed and well-planned walking tours. You can follow the famous painted red stripe through Boston's historic landmarks or walk your way through the sites of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Nearly any city you can think of offers a walking tour with maps, provided by the tourist bureau. And small towns generally have a scenic route that will carry you past its best boutiques, shops, and cafes.

From the benefits to your heart to your overall happiness, walking is just plain good for you. This month, pick up a map and start walking. (Just don't forget the sunscreen, hat, second layer, and plenty of water.) It's a fabulous way to get to know a place, propelled by the power of your own two feet.
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