Walk this Way! Walk Towards Wellness with these 5 Tips
Did you know that walking is one of the best forms of exercise for most people? Read more to learn about the health benefits of walking and if you really need to meet 10,000 steps a day to improve your health!
1. Find Your Reason to Walk
Walking on a regular basis provides numerous physical health benefits, and the more walking you do, the greater these benefits become. Walking helps people lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, helps lower blood pressure, improves cardiovascular fitness, strengthens bones, increases muscle endurance, and improves the immune system. Walking also promotes better mood, increased balance and coordination, and lowers stress and tension. Why do you want to begin walking on a regular basis? Determine your “why” and keep that at the forefront of your mind when you begin or whenever you feel like your motivation is waning.
2. Start Where You Are
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that most healthy adults should strive to achieve 150 minutes of continuous movement at a moderate level every week, or 75 minutes of vigorous movement per week, or a combination of both. If you feel unready to jump straightaway to these timeframes, start out with a time goal that is realistic for you, and aim to increase that time every week. If you have not been exercising regularly, perhaps 10 or 20 minutes of continuous walking a day the first week, then assess, and increase to 25 or 30 minutes a day the second week, etc.
3. Set up a Good Routine and Be Consistent
When do you think it will be convenient for you to walk? Take a look at your schedule and see when it is realistic for you to implement your walking routine for greater success. The best time to be active is in the morning before starting your day, but if this doesn’t work for you, that’s okay! Find a time that appeals to you, whether that is taking a walk during breaks at work to avoid that afternoon slump or to just break up the day. Whatever suits you, make the effort to block out the time and make an “appointment” on your calendar for your walk.
4. Enjoy Your Walk
You are more likely to continue walking on a regular basis if you enjoy it. Set up a scenario that gets you excited about taking your daily walk. Do you prefer to walk outdoors? Walking in nature, as long as it is safe, is proven to not only improve your physical health, but your mental health as well. Do you prefer to walk indoors? Many malls provide free walking space that is safe and accessible to utilize through Mall-walking programs. Do you like to walk and talk? Walking with a friend or neighbor provides both an opportunity to socialize as well as a support system to keep you accountable to sticking with your exercise goals. Or do you prefer “alone time”? Put on your favorite music, podcast, or audiobook, and enjoy your steps while stimulating your other senses.
5. Track your Progress
When starting a walking routine, use a pedometer, electronic tracker like a FitBit or Apple Watch, or even your phone app to track your steps at your baseline level. As you increase the duration and intensity of your walks, your number of steps will also increase. Generally, the more steps, the more health benefits and greater risk reduction an individual will see. However, while 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) per day seems to be the set universal goal, it is not necessary to reach 10,000 steps per day to already witness health improvements. Recent studies highlighted in the New York Times concluded that, in terms of health risk reduction, people who undertook 8,000 steps per day were half as likely to die prematurely from heart disease or any other cause as those who accumulated 4,000 steps a day.
Bottom Line: Walking promotes physical health benefits and stress reduction. Choose where, when, how and with whom you would like to walk, and get moving! Your body and mind will thank you for it.
Learn more about healthy lifestyle habits and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by: Edenn Sarino Vidrio, MPH, MS, MCHES®, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. Mayo Clinic