This everyday activity offers big benefits to better health for small efforts.
We all do it every day, all day. From getting out of bed in the morning to take a shower to retrieve the mail to shopping in the aisles of your favorite store, we are walking through life. But what if you got more intentional about walking? With a little structure and a little more time, you can reap big benefits for your health and well-being.
Walking is a physical activity that most people of any age can do. These positive outcomes from walking will inspire you to grab your sneakers.
–Weight loss: A brisk 30-minute walk can burn about 50 grams of glucose (approximately 200 calories). Burning glucose keeps you from gaining weight and can lead to a lower number on the scale.
–Cardiovascular health: Walking improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, reduces stroke risk, and when you get your heart rate up, it can strengthen your heart.
–Make some muscle: Walking can tone your legs and abdominal muscles plus increase your range of motion.
-Easy on the joints: Unlike running which can stress your joints, the low impact nature of walking takes it easy on your joints and improves their condition. Did you know that the majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply? Movement brings oxygen and nutrients to your joints.
–Cognitive boost: Walking can slow down memory decline and clear your mind opening it up to creative ideas and problem-solving power. Some studies show regular walking decreases the incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
–More energy, fewer infections: Frequent walkers feel more energetic and have an improved immune response to viruses.
–Elevate your mood: Studies have shown walking can help reduce anxiety or depression, relieve tension, increase self-esteem and enhance your outlook. Bonus: Take your dog on your walk and improve his health and well-being, too!
Walk this Way
Here’s my guide for stepping up your walking game into an effective exercise strategy.
1. Wear comfortable shoes with proper arch support and thick, flexible soles to cushion your feet. Wear breathable clothing and sunscreen or a hat in the summer. In cooler weather wear a jacket you can take off if needed.
2. Vary your route every day to keep your walks interesting. If there is a nearby body of water or scenic trail nearby, take advantage of it.
3. Bring a friend along or listen to a podcast or audio book. You’ll find yourself walking longer when you’re having a good time.
4. As you start your walk, warm up by walking slowly for a couple of minutes before you get up to a faster pace. As you conclude, cool down by walking at slower pace for a minute or two. Afterward, drink some water.
5. Pump your arms to increase your heart rate. A faster pace increases your results.
6. Bring a bottle of water with you on hotter days and for longer walks.
7. The ideal frequency is to walk 30 minutes or more every day. But if you can only get in 10 minutes on your lunch break, do it. Every step counts.
8. Set some mini-goals and track your progress. Consider wearing a pedometer or smart watch to help you. At 30 days, 60 days and 90 days, assess if you are seeing any improvements in your stamina, energy level, mood or weight.
If you haven’t been active or have ongoing health concerns, please consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.
Maximize your Movement
A sedentary lifestyle is a key contributor to chronic health conditions, so integrating movement of any kind in any amount has benefits. Your work schedule, your health status and your mobility all factor into what is achievable for you. And that’s OK.
Standing at your desk more while you work, doing left lifts from your chair or parking in a spot far away from the entrance of your destination add up to more movement in your day. Do what you can, increase your movement when possible, and keep walking toward your goal of 30 minutes every day.