Walk Your Way To A Healthier, Happier You

Walking.  It is something we do every day without giving it much thought.  We walk in the grocery store, we walk to and from our car, we walk to the kitchen.  It is a natural activity that we already engage in on a daily basis.  The wonderful thing about walking is that it has so many positive benefits that go along with it!  In this article we will look at the health benefits of walking as well as ways to get started and ways to keep it interesting so you will want to continue it.  Just 30 minutes a day, several days a week can put you on the road to a happier, healthier you!

What are the health benefits of walking?  Studies have shown that walking just 30 minutes a day can help you:

          -Reduce your risk of Coronary Artery Disease

          -Improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels

          -Improve your blood lipid profile

          -Maintain your body weight and help prevent obesity

          -Enhance your mental well-being

          -Reduce your risk of osteoporosis

          -Reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer

          -Reduce your risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes


Other benefits include better posture, increased strength and toning of muscles, and increased endurance.  Walking also can help prevent dementia, give you more energy, and boost your vitamin D levels if you walk outside in the sunshine, according to www.tescoliving.com.

Dr. Craig Williams, a sports science lecturer at the University of Exeter is a firm believer in the benefits of walking.  According to Dr. Williams, because walking is low-impact, it does not carry the same potential for injury as jogging.  Walking also can help drain your lower legs of excess fluid and prevent varicose veins through the pumping of the calf muscles, as discussed by osteopath Marcus Davis.

The best thing about walking is that you can usually see results from walking fairly quickly.  Now let’s discuss the basics to get you started.

Make walking a part of your daily routine. Try to walk at around the same time every day.  Do what is convenient for you as that will help you be consistent and stick with it.  Some people find keeping a daily activity log or journal to be helpful.

Wear a pedometer while walking. A pedometer is a device that measures the number of steps you take.  By comparing your movements day to day, you may find you are motivated to move more!  The recommended number of steps accumulated per day to achieve health benefits is 10,000 steps or more according to Betterhealth.vic.gov.

Find a comfortable Intensity for walking.Plan to cover a set distance each day and monitor how long it takes you to complete that distance.  Over time as your strength and endurance increase, you will find that you probably will cover the same distance quicker and be able to go farther with little effort.  Because our bodies tend to get used to physical activity, it is a good idea to change up the intensity of your walking routine. This will also help keep it more interesting and enjoyable for you mentally.  Some things you can do to change things up include walking up hills, walking with hand weights, intersperse ‘power walking” at a brisk pace with your regular pace, and walk longer and further.  Always remember to warm up before walking and cool down after for the best benefit.

Footwear For Walking. The right shoes can make or break your walk.  Make sure your shoes are comfortable, with appropriate heel and arch supports.  Take light, easy steps and make sure your heel touches down before your toes, and whenever possible, walk on grass rather than concrete to help absorb the impact of each step.

Make Walking Interesting and Fun. Some easy and fun ways to keep your walking routine interesting and something you look forward to include changing the places you walk or the route you take, walking your dog (or your neighbor’s!), walking with friends, or even joining a walking club. 

Being Safe While Walking Walking is generally considered to be a safe and practical form of exercise.  If you follow these safety guidelines, you should be just fine. 

-see your medical doctor for a medical check-up before starting, particularly if you are over 40, are overweight, or haven’t exercised in a long time.

-choose walks that suit your age and fitness level.

-Wear loose, comfortable clothing, appropriate footwear, and sunscreen.

-Carry a walking stick to fend off possible unleashed, unfriendly dogs.

-Always be on the lookout for hazards on your path including loose gravel, puddles, cracks, and other forms of debris.

-Drink plenty of fluids before and after your walk, and on long walks, always have fluid with you.


Things To Remember

-Walking 30 minutes a day or more is a great way to improve your overall health.

-A little walking daily is better than none at all.  You can achieve this simply by parking further away from your destination, taking the stairs rather that the elevator, and picking up the pace when walking to and from places, even if it is just inside your own home or office.

While no one can tell you exactly how far and how fast to walk when you start, your body will be your best guide as you progress.  Walking with friends can improve social connections, and walking alone can allow you time to quietly reflect on things while getting exercise.  The important thing is to start where you are, with what you have.  Remember - no matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch!