While in my early 30’s I began to experience knee pain as a result of participating in a variety of sports. For years I engaged in running, long-distance cycling and a variety of martial arts all of which took a toll on my knees. Several experts in sports medicine diagnosed my problem as being Chondromalacia or inflammation the underside of the patella — an annoying and slightly painful nagging injury. My doctors advised me to give up running and cycling and take up a low impact activity like walking or lap swimming. The latter didn’t really appeal to me since I was a competitive swimmer in high school and college and at times felt like a hamster on a treadmill while swimming laps. It turned out to be tough decision because I was addicted to the “endorphin high” from running and cycling. Walking is good exercise but it doesn’t provide the feeling of well-being that you get from more vigorous exercise like I was used to. However, so as to not exacerbate my knee problem I took my doctor’s advice and took up walking as a way to keep myself fit.
Walking does have it advantageous in that it is a low impact exercise and easier on the “old” joints than running, tennis or cycling. Numerous studies show that brisk walking one-half hour a day, five times a week can bring the following health benefits:
• Decreases Blood Sugar
• Improves oxygen to the Body
• Lowers Blood Pressure improves bone density and reduces body fat
• Increases Good Cholesterol
• Reduces the chance of stroke or diabetes or joint problems
• Provides for a Healthier Heart and thus reduces the chances of heart disease
• Improves Balance and Coordination
• Improves Muscle Strength
• Gives Your Body Greater Mobility
• Eliminates Fluid Build Up in Your Tissues
•Makes motion more fluid in Your Joints
• Burns Fat & Helps Fight Weight Gain
In addition, one can participate in walking at almost any age so, it is a very valuable fitness tool whether your age is eight or eighty. At one point in our history walking was our only mode of transportation. We are mechanically designed to be walking machines.
Another benefit of walking is that it is inexpensive. Really all you need is a pair of good walking or running shoes. Fortunately, there a lot on the market from which to choose.
Costa Rica is a country that lends itself to walking. Since I was diagnosed with Chondromalicia and forced to give up running and cycling I make it a point to walk every chance I get. In fact, I rarely use my car and opt to walk all over. When I go to the supermarket I walk about 40 minutes and then take a cab home with my groceries. I always get off at least 10 blocks before my destination when traveling by city bus so I can get in a quick walk. The other day it was raining and I needed exercise so I went to the mall and walked around.
Costa Rica is a nature lover’s Disneyland and offers plenty of other places to hike or walk. When I go to Jacó Beach I usually walk the length of the beach two times in the early morning. Jacó is a perfect place for walking on the beach because it is a couple of miles long and flat. There are also many mountain trails where one can hike and take in the wonders of mother nature. San José’s sprawling Sabana Park is perfect for walking. I have a couple of friends who live near the park and walk around and through it every morning.
I used to hike with the editor of this publication, Bruce Silverman, when he lived in Costa Rica. We would start from the town of San Rafael de Heredia and hike uphill over the mountain to San Isidro de Heredia. At the end of the hike we would reward ourselves with a good lunch, thus, earning our meal through exercise. On one occasion Bruce and I hiked about twenty miles from downtown San Jose, Costa Rica to the city of Cartago. The hike took us five hours and was mostly flat except for one stretch. Every August, thousands of people from all over Costa Rica participate in a pilgrimage by walking many miles to Cartago’s famous Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles.
During the time I have lived in Costa Rica, I have taken a lot of other memorable walks and hikes. The bottom line is that, walking is fun, provides numerous preventative health benefits, reduces stress, and improves your quality of life. Retirees or anyone else living in Costa Rica can participate in this activity.
Christopher Howard is one of Costa Rica’s most read authors who has written the perennial best-selling “New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica — the official guide to relocation” See amazon.com or www.costaricabooks.com for details. For the last 16 years Mr. Howard has conducted monthly relocation/retirement tours to Costa Rica. Please see www.liveincostarica.com.