Local | Senior Lifestyle

Skip the treadmill and head for the hills

Splendido resident John Hemann attributes his good health to a daily walk around the community. (Courtesy Splendido)

Research shows that taking your exercise outdoors compared to working out in a gym offers unique benefits for physical, cognitive, and emotional health. There are plenty of natural places around Tucson for hiking, biking, golfing, and other pastimes — or simply taking a stroll.

Many locals enjoy regular outdoor activity, and one of them is 80-year-old John Hemann, who lives at Splendido, an all-inclusive community for those 55 and better in Tucson. “I’m very healthy, and I attribute that largely to the walking,” he says. “I walk every day year-round, most of the time in the evening. Those walks are on sidewalks, but I also go for longer walks in the desert occasionally.”

John recalls how he started his walking habit: “When I was teaching and raising a family, I didn’t get as much exercise as when I was young,” he says. “In 1999 I was hospitalized for about a month, and when they released me I started walking—at first, just a little bit a day, then up to a mile a day, then up to three miles. I’ve been walking ever since.”

In addition to his daily walks, John golfs several times a week and enjoys taking care of cacti and flowers in the yard of his villa home at Splendido. Of course, the physical activity is good for him, but research has found more subtle benefits associated with these outdoor hobbies:

• Multiple studies have shown that regular exposure to “green areas” can cause our bodies to relax and let go of stress, as well as ease anxiety. One study found that people who got out in nature to exercise had slower heart rates and lower levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol than those who spent all of their time in the city.

• Walking or exercising outdoors has also been proven to strengthen short-term memory. Of two groups that walked in a natural or urban setting, the nature walkers performed nearly 20 percent better on a brief memory test.

• Studies have linked time spent in nature with lower levels of inflammation, reduced hypertension, and even a stronger immune system.

• Research comparing outdoor runners with those on treadmills found that people who run outside exert more energy than the treadmill runners.

So the next time you feel anxious or pressured, lace up your walking shoes and head for the hills!

Article contributed by Splendido at Rancho Vistoso. Splendido is a L’Chaim level sponsor of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, providing major support for the 2017-18 Women’s Philanthropy Welcome, Connections brunch, and Northwest Division Campaign Kickoff, as well as hosting “Life in a Jar” and Yom HaShoah Remembrance events.