The One Habit Aunts Should Take on this Spring
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Katelyn Fry
Last week, when I found myself having a bad day, my best friend gave me some unexpectedly good advice. “Go take a walk. It will help,” she said. “I promise.” At first, I was stubborn and didn’t, but I eventually took her up on her suggestion, and to my surprise, she kept her promise. Walking really helped.
Curious as to why my friend’s suggestion was so accurate, I did a little exploring, and discovered that walking has several benefits, both physical and mental, and ones that you and your nieces and nephews can enjoy together.
Walking is healthy
The first benefit is obvious; walking is good for your health. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the simple act of walking can reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure, help maintain body weight and strengthen bones and muscles. But these benefits are just the beginning in a long line of reasons to take a walk.
Walking is stimulating
Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, was a major advocate for walking. According to Carmine Gallo, Jobs had a reputation for taking “brainstorming walks.” Gallo knew that Jobs was onto something, referring to a Stanford research study which found that “the majority of participants were far more creative when they walked,” and that “walking boosted a person’s creative output by sixty percent.” And Brent Schlender, who reported on Jobs for 25 years for Fortune and The Wall Street Journal, said that Jobs would invite him over to his house for a walk, not a meeting, and learned from the staff at Pixar Studios that taking walks was Jobs’s preferred way to meet and could often be found walking around the Apple campus.
Jessica Smith of MyFitnessPal.com agrees, listing “sharpens the brain” as her number one benefit of walking. Smith recommends a method of walking that your nieces and nephews would probably get a kick out of, referring to a 2009 Dutch study where researchers found that walking backward helped people to “literally think faster on their feet.” The research also shows that incorporating mind-enhancing moves like “moving in certain patterns with coordinated arm movements” were also beneficial to the brain.
Walking can develop cognitive skills
According to Erin Leyba, psychotherapist and author of Joyful Parenting, walking can help kids with their cognitive development. While walking with nieces and nephews, aunts can incorporate math by counting things we see along the way, and ask questions that encourage math skills like: We saw two shamrocks, then another three – how many is that? Aunts can also bring science into the walk by noticing details like “how much water is flowing [by the creek] in relation to how much it’s been raining.” Leyba also recommends acknowledging changes in the seasons and other natural phenomena.
Taking walks with your nieces and nephews can help them build their language skills. Leyba suggests that naming the things you pass can help develop language and vocabulary in small children. “When you name things constantly on walks – lights, fire hydrants, flowers, fences, doggies, flags, trees, birds, etc. – they tend to be some of the first words children learn.”
A walk to remember
Walking is also a great way to strengthen memory. Leyba suggests that by taking the same route on your walk with kids, it becomes familiar and they know what to expect. She suggests asking them questions like: What’s different about that house? and What’s around that corner? And, according to Jessica Smith, walking on a daily basis bolsters "the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.” So it doesn’t matter the age – walking can not only help your nieces’ and nephews’ memory develop, but it can help your own.
Walking is stress-free
Finally, walking is a wonderful means of relaxation. Leyba says it “offers the chance to breathe fresh air [and] not rush from here to there.” According to Smith, “walking outdoors near greenery has been shown to help reduce feelings of frustration.” And the AHA says that walking “enhances your mental well-being.” Plus, it’s free, easy, and done on your own time - so there's little stress attached to making it happen. What beats that?
Not only will walking let you and the kids in your life reap the mental and physical benefits, but it’s one of the easiest and perfect ways to spend your one-on-one time. You’re being healthy, stimulating their minds, getting good QualAuntie Time in to bond, and giving each other a moment to slow down and find peace of mind, all at the same time.
Need more inspiration? Here are some savvy ideas for walks with nieces and nephews:
- If possible, walk the kids to school, or pick them up to walk them home
- Walk the dog together
- Take a nature walk
- Go on a hike
- Make it competitive, and set goals like using a fitness app to gauge the number of steps taken, or in the number of leaves or rocks collected.
- Sign up for a charity walk
- Encourage their passion for Pokemon-Go
- Try walking meditation
- Make it a habit, whether it's daily, weekly, or monthly.
- Bring the grandparents and other family members
I know one thing; my walk the other day is going to be the first of
many, and next time, I will definitely have my nieces join me!
Published: April 19, 2017