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

Norma Walton Talks: Retail Real Estate Predictions

Over the past two years, I have watched with interest and some consternation as more major retailers than I have fingers and toes have gone into receivership or bankruptcy.  COVID has accelerated trends that were already happening in the marketplace.  Four of those trends bear highlighting.

Apparel retailers are in trouble.  Any apparel retailer with significant debt will fail in the next two years.  COVID has caused those stores to be completely closed for the past three months.  Now that they are permitted to re-open, the restrictions being placed upon them coupled with the general anxiety amongst a large portion of the population about venturing outside of their homes will work together to significantly reduce their sales.  This reduction in revenue will leave them unable to cover their debts.  That means receivership or bankruptcy.

Even those apparel retailers who don’t have a lot of debt will be forced to dramatically reduce their real estate footprint and significantly increase their online sales and web presence.  That trend is unstoppable.  Stores will be smaller and more reliant upon online sales in the future.  They will have to push their brand online and ensure their websites can accommodate and promote online sales.

That rolls into my third prediction, which is that warehousing space will become more expensive and warehouse fulfillment centres will boom over the next two years.  Any landlords who have warehouse space available will be able to ask more per square foot because as retailers reduce their real estate footprint, they will need a place to receive, store and ship out their clothing.   Warehouse fulfillment and distribution centres will be in demand given the shift to online shopping.

Real Estate Prediction

The final prediction concerns malls.  Malls will have to diversify their sources of income and their revenues to survive going forward.  They will not be able to rely solely upon retailers.  This trend has already started.  The Shops of Don Mills has ringed the mall with residential towers, providing built-in shoppers.  The retailers there still struggle but the restaurants, movie theatres, grocery stores and drug stores are thriving.  Bayview Village and Yorkdale malls are trying to replicate that trend, adding significant residential density to the mall and adding more restaurants and entertainment centres to service the residents they propose to move in.  Malls in Canada will need to move in that direction to survive.

Those are my four retail real estate predictions for Canada for the next two years.  I will continue to watch with interest to see what comes to pass.

Posted in Finance, Real Estate

Norma Walton Talks: Predictions for Residential Real Estate

I predict that the price of houses in towns and cities that are within one to two hours of Toronto will skyrocket in value over the next two years, outpacing the average price appreciation for all residential real estate in Ontario.  There are three reasons I make this prediction.

Residential Real Estate

First, with the onset of COVID, a lot of employers have been forced to permit their employees to work from home.  This is a trend that is here to stay.  Even bankers and lawyers are working from home.  That flexibility and the concept that you may only need to attend the office in person two to three days a week removes the need for people to live in or near the big city.  Commuting a few days a week is not as onerous as commuting every single weekday.  This provides flexibility and opens up a much larger radius around the city for purchasing a home.  The smaller towns are far more affordable than Toronto.  A colleague of mine recently bought a brand new home in Bracebridge for less than $500,000.  That is an attractive metric for many people who currently live in the city.

Second, there are so many condominium dwellers and apartment dwellers who are sick of waiting 45 minutes or more for the elevator due to social distancing.  They are also tired of heading up and down the emergency exit stairs trying to keep their distance.  They are desperate to breathe the fresh air and spend some time outdoors given the state of emergency orders that have been in place.  Many condominiums and apartments have no outdoor space.  Those feelings of having been cooped up in a box will drive many of those condominium owners to sell their condominiums and purchase houses that they can afford…and those affordable communities are typically at least an hour outside of Toronto and often as far away as two hours away.

Predictions for Residential Real Estate
Macleans photo

Finally, the price of houses in the city of Toronto remains incredibly high.  The prices are completely unaffordable for most families.  Anyone coming into the city from elsewhere in Canada cannot afford to buy in Toronto.  That lack of access to affordable houses in the city will drive people who want a backyard and their own house further and further outside of the city limits.

Those three trends support my prediction that homes in the surrounding communities within one to two hours of Toronto will skyrocket over the next two years.  We’ll see if the prediction comes to fruition.

Posted in Finance

Charles Dickens was right

Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield in 1850. In it, he introduced a character named Wilkins Micawber. Wilkins said something incredibly wise yet incredibly simple:

Income 20 pounds
Expenses 19 pounds
Result: Happiness

Income 20 pounds
Expenses 21 pounds
Result: Misery

That concept is fundamental to financial management. If your income does not cover your expenses, you will struggle in life whereas if your income does cover your expenses, even by a little bit, you will generally be happy financially.

When I apply that concept to my own life, I realize that I either have to earn more income or reduce my expenses when I am not in balance. The key is to make more or spend less.

Charles Dickens was right!

Posted in Finance

Amazon shopping in the age of COVID

I was never an online shopper. I always went to the store so I could touch and feel the products I was about to buy. All that changed with COVID. All of a sudden, I was forced to shop online. A whole new world awaited!

I have now joined Amazon Prime for the free shipping and other perks. I understand why Amazon’s stock has sky rocketed during the pandemic. What a fabulous offering.

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During the pandemic, I have purchased a few products.

I needed a trunk liftgate latch for our vehicle. The mechanic told me he had to order it new but that I might be able to buy it on Amazon for less then he could install it. I bought it for $75 instead of the $300 that it would have cost new.

I needed printer cartridges for our printer. It is so frustrating to purchase a printer for a good price then to pay hundreds of dollars every time you need new cartridges. Amazon had them for a good price and they were delivered within two days of ordering.

I love to make pancakes for the kids. As a result I go through a lot of grills. When my old one’s teflon began to wear out, I bought a Sunbeam large grill that is perfect for a whole bunch of pancakes. It was delivered the next day.

I doubt I will go back to shopping in store now that I have discovered the ease of shopping on Amazon.ca.

*This content is in no way sponsored by Amazon