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Aging Well: Urban walking is a step in the right direction

Grab a leash and put on your walking shoes—new research shows that walking in urban green spaces can boost your cognitive health, reduce stress, and improve your mood.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

Taking regular walks has been proven to offer impressive benefits for different aspects of your physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. And it may be the perfect way to get exercise: walking is free, low-impact, and can be done anywhere — and just a half-hour walk a day can impart health benefits.

Now there’s good news for city-dwellers: recent research highlights the benefits of “urban walking” in green spaces such as parks. In a new study, researchers from the Science Museum of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech found that walking in a quiet setting in an urban environment — one that offers shade and greenery — can significantly reduce stress and boost mood.

The researchers point out additional benefits for cognitive health and feelings of depression and anxiety, as walking in these environments can lead to interactions with others, building ties between neighbors. The study’s co-author, Jeremy S. Hoffman, PhD, says “In our study, we basically showed that walking in a shady, quiet neighborhood was like going to a therapist, trainer, and outdoor thermal oasis all at the same time.”

The plan for Tysons includes adding green space and parks of various types as well as trails and other outdoor gathering places. One of these parks is currently under construction by The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62 and better that’s opening in early 2024.

Located near Tysons Galleria, The Mather is adding nearly three acres of public/private green space that will feature walking paths, an urban lawn area, and many other outdoor amenities such as tennis, badminton, a dog park, and more. While the community will have a fitness center complete with indoor pool and exercise studio, future residents are looking forward to utilizing the park for entertainment, relaxation, and, of course, walking.

“I love to walk — I love being outside, especially in the morning,” says Faye Brady of McLean, who is planning a move to The Mather with her husband. “Right now we live in a lovely subdivision called Evans Farm, and my neighbor Linda and I walk almost every morning. We like to explore the area, and we’ve met many lovely people over the years.” The two women walk through McLean, changing up their route and logging about four miles. Faye also walks every Monday with another neighbor, winding through McLean Central Park to total around five miles.

As it turns out, she and the two neighbors are all moving to The Mather. “We’re really good friends,” she explains. “There are five couples in our subdivision who are moving there. I’m not sure who decided first, but when I found out that both my walking friends were going to move there, we signed up too!”

It seems that the green spaces at and around The Mather will be put to good use.

The Mather in Tysons, VA, for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be. It opens in 2024.

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We invite you to join us at STEAMOLOGY’s annual FREE STEM Fest for elementary and middle school students, taking place on Saturday, October 14th at South County High School, 8501 Silverbrook Rd, Lorton, VA 22079.

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Workshops on: ~ Meditation ~ Intro to Tarot: The Aces and Major Arcana

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