7 ways to walk away from stress

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How to take smart steps toward positive living

Webster defines stress as "that which strains or deforms." Put too much stress on a piece of metal and it breaks. Put too much stress on your body or mind and it begins to suffer the consequences: fatigue, tension and anxiety, illness.

When we're under stress, our body releases chemicals that, although helpful in the short run, become harmful in excess. Walking helps you to dissipate those harmful chemicals, immediately. And walking regularly helps to condition you so that stressful events take less of a toll. A regular walking program, then, is a great stress buster.

But there's another way to bring the beneficial effects of walking to bear in your life. Instead of just using walking to wash away the effects of stress and protect against its onslaught, there are many times when you can take a walk to avoid stressful situations altogether!

Here's a list of seven stress-busting walking strategies.

Feed your feet, not your face. If anxiety, boredom or force of habit have you running to the refrigerator for comfort, slow down! You're just making your life more stressful by adding excess weight. When you know your hunger is motivated by stress, force yourself to take a brisk walk around the block or the hallways instead. Walking can relax you and may help you lose the urge to eat under duress.
Relieve `eyeball' pressure. Take your spouse, your boss, your child or your friends for a walk-and-talk session. Meeting with people face-to-face, where constant eye contact is required, can generate extra anxiety and tension, especially if the subject matter is stress producing to begin with. Whenever you can, plan walking encounters. Not only do you relieve stress by making continual eye-to-eye contact unnecessary, you both get to walk off some of the tension as you talk.
Take walk breaks at work. Escape from the office routine of coffee and doughnuts. Research shows that a brisk walk can give you more energy than eating a sugary snack does. If you can get outside, the fresh air may do wonders for your outlook, too. If not, a brisk jaunt through the halls, and maybe a flight of stairs, can bring you back to your desk ready to concentrate.
Park in your driveway. Ever head downtown on a Saturday morning and spend precious time circling the stores, looking for a parking space? Try leaving your car at home and walking to town for your Saturday-morning errands. You can avoid the aggravation of clogged streets, not add to the local pollution and benefit from a relaxing stroll. You may even save time!
Incubate afoot. Sometimes knotty problems can leave us feeling physically tied in knots. That's the time when less thinking and more relaxing and mental drifting can be a real asset. Take a stress-free stroll and let your subconscious do a little undercover work. Leave the problem behind, and when you get back, you may just find the answer staring you in the face.
Avoid parking-lot panic. Door dings, kids everywhere, cars pulling in and out. Parking lots sometimes seem like accidents waiting to happen. Next time you head for a mall or department store, don't automatically head for the center of the storm and try to get the choice spot closest to the door. Park as far from other cars and the entrance as you can. Take a stroll around the perimeter before you race into that bustling shopping arena. A restorative cool-down will be waiting for you on the way back to the car.

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Plan a walking vacation. Vacations are a sign of status in America. Everybody wants to take one. But we do it so seldom we're not very good at it. Planning a vacation can be a big headache. All the details, the reservations, the restaurants. How many people come home saying they need a vacation to recuperate from their vacation? A walking vacation, on the other hand, is a truly rejuvenating experience.
Tour companies around the country are cropping up that literally take care of your every need for a weekend, a week or more, at destinations here and abroad. You eat fine foods, walk through beautiful, scenic pathways and meet wonderful people. And all you have to worry about is the daypack on your back. You come home invigorated and refreshed. And looking forward to a walking vacation can add incentive to your walking program.

Ask your travel agent for brochures on walking tours. Or join the Prevention Walking Club and receive discounts with tour companies we've already tried and loved.

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By Maggie Spilner

RALLY NOTE: FOR WALKERS LIVING IN SAN JOSE
San Jose residents who would like to attend Prevention's All- American Walkers Rally, May 31 to June 2, can register May 30, 31 and June 1 at the Civic Auditorium Complex, 145 W. San Carlos St., San Jose. Registration will take place in the lobby off the Exhibit A and B area near Park Ave. and South Market St.

Registration hours are Thursday, May 30, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, May 31, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, June 1, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Health and Nutrition Expo and seminars are open Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For parking information, call City Parking Division (408) 277-4229. For information about the Rally, call our Rally Hotline at (800) 542-4769,9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT. Join us!

JOIN THE PREVENTION WALKING CLUB!
Take a giant step toward health and fitness. For just $9.97 you will receive an annual walking-club magazine with a year-long log, a bimonthly newsletter, beautiful membership patch, awards certificate and a discount on Walkers Rally registration. Treat yourself to the rewards of walking. Sign up today!

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