Posted in Uncategorized, Women's Health

The Benefits of a Morning Walk with Norma Walton

Norma Walton Michelle Obama Benefits of Walking

I remember reading that Michele Obama woke up really early to ensure she fit a workout in every day.  When her first daughter was four months old, that meant 4:30 am.  That is a little crazy-early for me.  Nonetheless, the concept appealed to me that if you fit your workout in first thing in the morning then it is done for the rest of the day.

I love a morning walk. The weather is fresh; it is quiet, still and peaceful; you get your exercise out of the way for the day; and you feel more invigorated with energy for the remainder of the day. It definitely takes extra effort to get up early to add a walk into your morning regime but for me, the benefits far outweigh that one challenge. I am now used to the early rise and like being up before the rest of my crew.  I have found that my morning walk brings the following health benefits: 

Energy Boost

We’ll start here because it is the first thing you’ll notice following your walk. Exercising outdoors is an excellent way to increase your energy.  The fresh air and morning quiet gives you a boost.  Although I typically walk for between 30 and 60 minutes each morning, it takes just 20 minutes of brisk walking to enjoy the newfound vitality. Instead of reaching for that cup of coffee in the morning with your eyes half closed, may I suggest you instead lace up your shoes and head out to take in some fresh air and get your circulation pumping.

Happier Mood

I tend to run happy but notice that even generally cranky people benefit from exercise.  So if you live with someone who tends to wake up angry, drag him with you on your morning walk.  Mood improvements are a wonderful benefit of morning walks, which can create an overall feeling of well-being.  Pumping a few endorphins through your body first thing can improve your mood for the entire day. Your daily constitutional can also improve self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, shake off fatigue, and even ease symptoms of depression.  All of these positive feelings can be achieved with a 20 minute walk five mornings a week.

Get Exercise Out of the Way

If you’re like a lot of people, the thought of exercise might be a real turn off. However, a morning walk can provide enough exercise for the day. It is one of the best forms of physical activity and I find it far more pleasant than trying to work out at home or in a gym. If you find yourself trying to avoid exercise, walking feels more like a treat than the drudgery of exercising. Even a slower paced walk can do wonders for your health.. Walk at whatever pace you feel comfortable. After your walk, you will feel satisfaction in the knowledge that you’re done for the day.

Weight Loss and Avoiding Weight Gain

At my age, the objective is not to gain any more weight.  A daily walk helps me maintain my weight.  For some, a daily walk will not only permit you to maintain your weight but will allow you to shed a few excess pounds.  Weight loss typically makes you look better, move easier, and improve overall health. A brisk morning walk lasting 30 minutes burns approximately 150 calories per walk.  Walking five days a week means you are burning 750 calories a week from walking.  That makes a difference…that is a pound of weight lost each month you walk.

For Your Health

Walking will improve your health.  A morning walk can help you better manage your health, prevent some health problems, and make it easier to live with chronic health challenges. Because you are exercising, you are receiving an immune system boost, coursing endorphins through your body, promoting weight maintenance or weight loss, and reducing your risk for heart disease. If you suffer from diabetes, walking can also help you better manage glucose levels.  There is even some research suggesting that walking daily will reduce your risk of contracting some forms of cancer and will increase your lifespan.  What’s not to like?

Improve Muscle Strength

As we age, we lose muscle and gain fat.  Our bodies change in ways we typically don’t appreciate.  A nice brisk walk can help strengthen leg muscles. Going uphill or taking the stairs can further increase the impact of walking on your leg muscles and also increase your leg strength. Even a slight incline gets your heart and muscles pumping. A walk is a pleasant way to keep leg muscles toned. To get your arm muscles into the act, consider carrying small weights with you or bringing Nordic poles along on your walk.  I often walk to the grocery store in the morning then walk home laden with groceries in my back pack and in my arms.  Although sometimes I feel like a pack mule, I have no doubt it is good for me.

Norma Walton explores mountains in Nevada

Mental Clarity

For me, being quiet in nature is an excellent stress buster.  If you live in a neighbourhood with green space, you can clear your head by drinking in that natural beauty each morning. Even in an urban space, you can improve mental clarity with a morning walk but the more nature you can incorporate into your morning walk, the more you will benefit. As we age, our brains become foggier.  A morning walk helps keep that youthful cognitive function that keeps your mind sharp. If you do creative work, a morning walk can open up your creativity and remove blocks. You can even experience improved problem-solving skills.  I always find solutions to my problems come to me after a good night’s sleep and a morning walk.

A Good Night’s Sleep

When you are up early for your walk, you tend to tire earlier at night.  When my head hits the pillow, it is easy for me to fall asleep.  In my view, even though you are walking in the morning, that activity actually helps you sleep better at night. Also, if you suffer from mild insomnia, a morning walk is better than an evening walk because you don’t want your body moving into an energy-producing mode just before bed. Also, with a morning kick start, your metabolism will work better throughout the day. Once your morning walk is a habit, you start to create a nice cycle providing yourself with much needed energy in the morning and throughout the day with improved sleep at night, allowing you to wake ready for your next walk the next morning.

Norma Walton kids sleeping

Summer Friendly

Toronto has been hot the past few days.  Walking in the middle of the day would be uncomfortable.  Walking in the morning allows you to take advantage of the coolest part of the day.  I always drink a big glass of water before heading out for my walk, and another one upon my return.  Others bring water with them.

Motion is Lotion

Three members of my household suffer from back pain.  Although laying down may seem the obvious fix, they find it is actually the worst thing you can do.  Staying  up and staying active will help work out the back problem faster than lying prone and still.  If you suffer from chronic pain of any kind, it is hard to get into the spirit of the motion-is-lotion movement.  However, I believe it is true and can help you relieve your pain. You can start out with slower, shorter walks and avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. Instead, take your time and remember that every step is one towards improved health and a reduction in muscle stiffness and joint pain. Walking actually helps protect your joints, as it promotes production of lubrication while helping to strengthen joint muscles. Once again, this is very important as you age, as it can help manage issues such as arthritis. As a low-impact exercise, it is the safest way to avoid increasing pain, and instead helps reduce swelling and stiffness.

I still think Michelle Obama is a little crazy being up that early.  But I agree wholeheartedly with her opinion that morning is the best time to exercise.  Hopefully the above benefits have encouraged you to give a morning walk a try if you don’t already enjoy one.  If so, then lace it up, take it slow to start, and always stay hydrated.

Norma Walton walk in the woods

Posted in Women's Health

Finding Stillness: Six Steps to a More Peaceful Day With Norma Walton

Life is loud.  The humming of your computer; the dinging of your smartphone; your air conditioner kicking in; traffic on the highway; laundry spinning; the dishwasher cleaning…all of these sounds take a toll.  It is difficult in the midst of modern living to find peace and quiet…true live-in-the-country, watch-the-stars quiet.

I am blessed with four healthy children aged 8 to 15; an additional teenager bunking with us during the pandemic; a 94-year old mother-in-law; and a husband of 30 years.  All of these creatures are loud more often than not.  All of them are loving about being noisy most of the time and our house is generally a raucous, rambunctious, happy place.  But it is rarely quiet.

I have read a few articles and talked with a few people who recommend meditation for at least 25 minutes a day to calm the mind and promote health and longevity.  Although a laudable concept, meditation is not for me at this point in my life.  Yet I need daily moments of stillness…of peace…of quiet.  Hence determining how to find peaceful intervals during the day is important.  I have made a few such breaks part of my daily routine.  What follows are six steps that help me find peace and quiet in the midst of the chaos that is our modern society and daily lives.

 Norma Walton peaceful day
Vitamin D in Womens Health, Role of Vitamin D3 Supplements in female health. Young woman enjoying sun in nature background.

1. Walking the dogs:  We have two Yorkshire Terriers.  They sleep with my children but the moment I wake up, they start to snuffle and whine and move around because I walk them each morning and each evening.  I have found that the 20 minutes I spend walking the two dogs twice a day is a time of immense peace and happiness for me.  Other dog walkers are generally friendly but most of the time I am alone with my puppies and my thoughts.  It is an ideal time to bask in the quiet while also marveling at the natural beauty all around.  Walking the dogs is a time of quiet reflection for me.

2. My daily walk:  After walking the puppies, I walk myself.  Rain or shine, I am typically out for a morning walk of between half an hour and an hour in duration. Although I enjoy calling and catching up with my folks or my friends during my morning walk, half of the time I walk in silence just thinking, looking around, greeting other walkers, and being present.  That is a good time for me.  I always come back from my walk refreshed and feeling much better.

3.  Stretching in the shower:  I love a hot shower and after I shower, I always stretch for at least a few minutes.  The air is warm and full of moisture and I inhale deeply while stretching with the water beating down on my back.  It is peaceful and my body appreciates being limber for the day because of the calisthenics.

4.  Reading a good book:  I have always loved to read.  My first part-time job was at the Byron Public Library where I would bring home loads of books every day after work.  Still decades later when I want to relax, I tuck into my chair with a good book and can read for literally hours at a time.  Jeffrey Archer is a favourite author along with John Grisham, but anything that engages me will do.  Reading a good book always makes me feel relaxed and happy, as does going to the library to find my next one.

5.  Journaling:  I keep a current journal with photos, pictures, words, poems, quotes, ideas, financial plans, business ideas, goals, items from the kids…anything that I find meaningful.  Spending time writing in my journal or cutting out a photo or picture that speaks to me and taping it in is satisfying.  I like the feel of the thick paper in my hands as I dream and create.  That activity makes me feel good and at peace.

6.  Hugging loved ones:  The moment of a hug is a peaceful, happy point in time.  We sometimes forget to slow down and hug our children, our parents, or our spouse.  Life is rushed and hurried and often stressful so we race around oblivious to the power of touch.  When we do take a moment to put our arms around someone we love, time slows down or stops.  That point of touch allows us to take a deep breath in and out to remember the value of the people around us whom we love.  When we take the time to show them we appreciate them, life always becomes a little bit better.

norma walton walks dogs

Daily life is hectic.  Modern society values speed.  Rushing around has become the norm.  We are rarely without our phones.  It is no wonder, then, that many people are anxious and unhappy.  Being stressed on a regular basis is not healthy.  In contrast, being able to find peace, stillness and relaxation in the midst of your day keeps you grounded.  Your mental health improves with every touch, with every deep breath, with every positive thought.  It doesn’t require hours of your time but merely minutes to change your mood.  Yet taking those minutes is crucial to enjoying your life.

The key for me has been incorporating the above six steps into my daily routine.  Once something is a habit, there is no need to motivate yourself to do it.  You just do it.  The above examples are mine and reflect what I find provides stillness and peace in my life.  You may have different activities that make you feel happy each day.  The key is being aware that you need some quiet in your daily life then determining the activities that provide you with that time.  The objective is to find your own activities that bring you contentment and then incorporate them into your daily life and daily routine. Life is still loud.  I don’t live in the country and the lights of the city make the stars hard to see.  But the six activities above have permitted me to find stillness and contentment in the midst of all the noise. I am much happier for it.

Norma Walton mother
Hugging mother and daughter in the park
Posted in Investing, Real Estate

Three Lessons Learned from Owning a Bridle Path Home

Owning a Bridle Path Home 2

The Bridle Path or “Millionaire’s Row” seems the pinnacle of Canadian home ownership.  Celebrities such as Celine Dion, Drake, Prince, Mick Jagger and Gordon Lightfoot have all called this neighbourhood home.  Living in the Bridle Path is considered “making it” by many ordinary Canadians. 

My husband and I lived there with our four young children between 2012 and 2014 and there were definite pluses, the biggest being the park-like back yard.  But I would not go back even if I could.

The three lessons I learned from owning a Bridle Path home are as follows:

Lesson One: If you need a mortgage to afford a home in the Bridle Path, this neighbourhood is not for you. 

I was told this by one of our lenders at the time and thought it a strange comment, but in hindsight he was absolutely right.  This is a neighbourhood for extremely wealthy people – celebrities, titans of industry and old money.  If you require a mortgage to join them, you should move somewhere else.

Lesson Two: This is not a neighbourhood in the real sense of the word. 

You will not have any neighbours within view when you exit your home; your children will not have any playmates on the street; no one will have eyes on your house when you are not there; almost every house has large fences or walls around it; and you won’t meet any of your neighbours.  There is no street activity like ball hockey, raking leaves, playing hoops in your driveway, sitting on the porch, or walking and jogging like on a normal street.  This is an exclusive, estate-lot type setting, where everyone keeps to themselves and everyone expects privacy.

Lesson Three: Buying a home in the Bridle Path is not an investment but an expense. 

Even without a mortgage you will likely have property taxes of $10,000 per month, utility bills of $10,000 per month, and maintenance fees of $5,000 per month.  That tallies $300,000 per year in home expenses even without a mortgage.  Hence this type of home requires that the owner have a robust ongoing income from other sources to cover the $25,000 monthly bills. Even if the home increases in value over time, the ongoing expenses will likely eat up any capital gain.

Drake is a perfect resident of the Bridle Path.  Normal folk not so much.

Drake - Canadian Musician

Posted in Uncategorized

Improving Ontario’s COVID Vaccine Rollout

Canada is 40th in the world in vaccination rollout and Ontario is in our third lockdown since the pandemic began. Clearly we are punching way below our weight in the fight against COVID.

Closing restaurants, health clubs, hair salons and small retailers is clearly not going to stem the increase in COVID infections. That decision is merely going to put those businesses closer and closer to the precipice of bankruptcy. Closing the entire province when the problem is in Toronto and Peel is also asinine. This punishes the entire province when the COVID problem is concentrated in two main regions.

We have protected our elderly and most vulnerable living in congregate settings through mass vaccinations where they live. Let’s now focus on the sources of the current COVID problem: the mass outbreaks in essential service workplaces in the hot zones of Toronto and Peel. Let’s immediately vaccinate all essential workers regardless of age, at their workplaces. This would include the Amazon warehouse workers, the Canada Post workers, the teachers and the meat packer workers. Let’s also focus our current vaccines on Toronto and Peel because that is Ground Zero in Ontario. You solve the problem there, it reduces or eliminates the spread everywhere else.

I cannot fathom how frustrating a province wide shutdown must feel like in Sault Ste. Marie or Sarnia. Doesn’t common sense dictate that we focus on the problem. My dad had an analogy. If Ford Motor Company had a problem in one factory, they would solve the problem in that factory. They would not close all the other factories until they figured out the solution for the one problem in the one factory.

Rather than close businesses that have nothing to do with increasing COVID outbreaks; rather than shut down a province where infection rates are low in most regions; rather than damage certain segments of the economy already teetering on the edge, why don’t we just focus on the problem. First, immediately vaccinate all essential workers regardless of their age. Second, focus the vaccines available to vaccinate those living in Peel’s and Toronto’s highest risk neighbourhoods regardless of age. And re-open the province, for goodness’ sake.

Those moves might at least demonstrate that we are still in the ring trying to knock out the foe using a modicum of common sense and a glimmer of intelligence. Imagine.

Improving Ontario’s Vaccine Rollout