Do you spend hours of your day staring at a computer screen, tablet, or TV, and not enough time moving? Physical inactivity can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other serious illnesses, which is why The American Heart Association celebrates National Walking Day on the first Wednesday of April. During the month-long celebration, feel inspired to get off that couch and take the first step to a healthier you.
How Is Walking Good for You?
Walking is one of the easiest and simplest forms of exercise. You don’t need special equipment or a fancy gym membership. When the weather is nice, you can grab a buddy and walk outdoors, or stroll through the mall during inclement weather. Walking is also a gentle, low-impact exercise that requires minimal athletic skill. More important, it’s an exercise program you can stick with in the long run.
Once the excess flab is gone, your daily walk will start to tone your muscles and give your body definition. Your endurance and breathing will improve. You’ll also feel more energized throughout the day. Walking can lift you out of your mental lethargy and get you motivated.
The Benefits of Walking
If you are overweight or suffer from hypertension, high cholesterol, or diabetes, walking will help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and control your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Walking strengthens bones and muscles and improves balance and coordination. Walking is also a weight-bearing exercise and prevents osteoporosis. Plus, walking outdoors is the perfect way to get your daily fix of vitamin D for bone health. With your daily walk, you will improve your fitness without any of the risks associated with more vigorous aerobic activity.
You know the expression “a spring in your step” (walking happily and confidently)? For some people, walking can be the equivalent of taking antidepressants. It boosts your mood and lightens your heart by releasing feel-good hormones called endorphins. Scientific studies have also shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity, like walking briskly for 150 minutes a week, can add years to your life expectancy.
Walking is also a great way to get in touch with your body. Walking meditation can be just as profound as sitting still for 20 to 30 minutes. This technique involves being aware of your body and its movement, and tuning out the incessant chatter in your head by focusing on posture, balance, and muscle relaxation. Cultivating this ritual of mindfulness during your daily walk will make for a calm and clear mind.
how to Incorporate Walking into your Daily Routine
If you haven’t exercised in a long time, start out slowly with 15 minutes a day and work your way up to 30 or more minutes of brisk walking. Those who want a more intensive exercise program can walk longer, faster, or up hills. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear, employ the correct techniques to avoid injury, and warm up and cool down with stretches before and after your walk.
If your busy life doesn’t allow dedicated time for a daily walk, here are a few ideas:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Walk your dog (or your neighbor’s)
- Avoid driving short distances and walk instead (i.e. when running errands)
- Park your car at the far end of the parking lot
- Get off one stop early on public transport and walk the rest of the way
- Buy a pedometer to stay motivated to achieve a goal of 10,000 steps every day.
How To Stay Motivated
To reap all the benefits of walking, you need to stick with it — and it’s easy to stick with something that’s fun and interesting. Here are some suggestions to help you stay motivated:
- Vary the route you walk
- Mix walking on a treadmill with walking outdoors
- Walk at different times of the day (invigorating early morning walks, beautiful sunset walks)
- Walk in scenic locations in your area (parks, reserves)
- Walk with friends
- Join a walking club or find a walking buddy
- Learn to enjoy the whole experience
- People watch while you walk
walking SUPPORt available
Bonus, new apps for your smartphone make walking fun while counting your calories and keeping you motivated:
- EveryTrail offers information on outdoor activities like sailing, cycling, hiking, kayaking, and skiing in many countries around the world
- MapMyWalk GPS tracks your route and measures time, distance, speed, pace, and calories
- Nike + Running is an interactive app with an audio feedback and “share my run” features
- FitDigits is a multi-exercise activity tracker with a personalized coach and health tracker
What are some of the ways you sneak in an extra walk or movement into your day?