It is no secret that exercise is essential for your health. Those with good intentions to exercise frequently fail with excuses ranging from busy schedules and time constraints to inexperience or lack of equipment. But staying active is a key to living a longer and healthier life.
A walking program is a widely accessible and an efficient type of exercise that often gets overlooked. It is easy to start, safe, and cost-effective. Walking, albeit a simple task, can be very useful in promoting healthy habits and combatting sedentary lifestyles.
Walking does not need to involve a gym membership or expensive gear. All you need is your trusty pair of sneakers and some comfortable weather-appropriate clothing to get started!
Research has shown a regular walking program can:
- Promote weight loss
- Lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Improve blood pressure
- Decrease body fat and reduce the risk of obesity
- Promote bone growth and decrease risk of osteoporosis
- Improve balance
- Control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes
- Improve cholesterol levels
- Increase energy and stamina
- Lower the risk of depression and enhance mental well-being
According to the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to achieve the benefits listed above.
These organizations recommend breaking it down into 30-60 minute bouts, multiple times a week, for the best outcome. But, that amount of time can also be implemented in one long, continuous session, or simplified into quick 10 minute intervals that comfortably fit into daily life. No more excuses!
How to start a walking program:
First and foremost, consult with your doctor to confirm it is safe for you to participate in physical activity. Once cleared by the doctor, begin with short distances at a comfortable pace. Maintain good posture with your head lifted and shoulders relaxed. Use a natural arm swing.
It’s always better to start slowly to avoid overuse injuries! Then, gradually increase the intensity of the walking routine by adding blocks or minutes each week. Use breathing as an indication of exercise intensity. Your breathing should be mildly labored. If you are unable to talk while walking, then you are walking too fast.
Keep it interesting! You are more likely to continue with your exercise routine on a regular basis if it is fun! Switch up the walking route, for example, incorporate hills for an increased challenge. Others are vary your walking pace. Listen to music; walk to the tempo of the songs that are played. Bring a friend to keep you company. Above all, stay safe when walking; be aware of your surroundings.
If using headphones, then keep the volume low to increase your awareness of traffic. Walk on sidewalks, if possible. Wear light colors and reflective clothing to bring attention to yourself when on the road. Don’t forget a flashlight when visibility is low.
Walking is an easy way to stay active and to promote a healthier lifestyle. It is an exercise that can be done almost anywhere at any time. Get started on your program today and walk into a healthier you!