Walking is one of the most health-giving natural movement activities available to us, and the benefits increase when we walk with friends. Research demonstrates that when people cluster with others who are healthy or ready to change their behavior, healthy behaviors increase, as does the individual’s ability to make lasting positive health changes.
What is a Moai?
The notion of Moai®—which translates roughly as “meeting for a common purpose” – originated in Okinawa, Japan, as a way for villagers to maintain a system of mutual financial support. Today the idea has expanded to represent an overall social support network, a ritualized vehicle for companionship. Okinawans put children into small groups of 5-6 and hold a ceremony celebrating their role as a Moai. They nurture these young groups, called Moais, fostering the friendship. In adulthood, Okinawans maintain strong social connections through regular Moai gatherings. Moais provide secure social networks. These safety nets lend financial and emotional support in times of need and give all of their members the stress-shedding security of knowing there is always someone there for them.
Social connectedness is ingrained into the world’s Blue Zones® areas and is one of nine common elements of longevity. Professor Lisa Berkman of Harvard University investigated social connectedness and longevity in relation to aging. Factors she examined included marital status, ties with friends and relatives, club membership, and level of volunteerism. Over a nine-year period, Berkman found that those with the most social connectedness lived longer. Higher social connectedness led to greater longevity. Those with the least social connectedness were between two and three times more likely to die during the nine-year period of the study than those with the most social connectedness. The type of social connectedness was not important in relation to longevity. As long as connection existed, longevity was positively affected. Even a lack of spouse or significant other could be compensated for by other forms of connection.
Why Walking Moais?
Walking is free, easier on the joints than running, always accessible, perfect with company and, when done briskly, offers similar cardiovascular benefits to running. After a hard day, walking relieves stress; after a meal, it can aid digestion. Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day, five or more days a week, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, and some cancers. Below is a list of the known benefits of walking:
• Promotes Physical Activity
Studies show that people who are physically active live longer and feel better. It’s never too late to start being active. Walking is a great way to get moving.
• Boosts Brain Power
Walking improves your ability to make decisions, solve problems, and focus. Even small doses of walking, such as 15-minute treks, can increase brain power.
• Aids Long-Lasting Weight Management
Everyone’s metabolism tends to slow over time, which can lead to weight gain. Walking burns calories and fights unwanted pounds. Healthy weight reduces risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
• Requires Only Modest Investment of Time and Money
Walking for 30 minutes a day can be split up into two shorter sessions of 15-minute walks or even three 10-minute walks. You don’t need fancy gear or equipment, just a good pair of shoes. Programs to promote walking are relatively inexpensive to implement and easy to promote.
• Increases Employee Productivity
Physical activity increases energy levels, reduces stress, and contributes to an improved immune system. It also improves concentration and short-term memory.
• May Lead to Reduced Insurance Costs
Sedentary behavior results in higher healthcare costs. Walking is one way to help prevent and manage several chronic diseases.
Join Muscatine Blue Zones Project at their next Walking Moai Launch on June 25 at 10:30 a.m. at Deep Lakes Park. For more information on Blue Zones Project, please contact Jodi Hansen at [email protected] or call 563-263-8895.