The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, ideally, spread out over the week. How we obtain these active minutes does not need to be complicated. A simple daily brisk walk can help to promote a healthier lifestyle.
According to the Mayo Clinic, benefits of walking include maintaining a healthy weight, preventing or managing various conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, improving cardiovascular fitness, strengthening your bones and muscles, improving muscle endurance, improving your balance and coordination, strengthening the immune system, and reducing stress and tension. Along with all of these physical benefits, those who walk daily experience cognitive benefits as well including increased energy levels, improved mood, cognition, memory and sleep, fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and better quality of life.
Technique and Form
When walking for fitness it is important to consider technique and form to prevent injury and get the most out of your stride.
- Keep your head up: Look forward in front of you, not at the ground
- Relax your neck shoulders and back
- Swing your arms freely with your elbows slightly bent
- Slightly tighten your core muscles and keep your back straight and tall
- Walk smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe with each step
Building a Walking Routine
Start slow: You may choose to start with taking a quick 5-10 minute walk during your lunch break. Once this becomes a comfortable routine you can build to a 20-minute walk after work. Setting realistic goals for ourselves helps to set us up for success in the long run.
Choose the right gear: Wear supportive shoes that have good arch support and thick, flexible soles to best support your feet and protect joints. You also may choose to wear an activity tracker or pedometer to help track your progress over time.
Select your course: Choose an outdoor course with a smooth, even surface. In the winter, you may choose to walk indoors in stores or use a treadmill to avoid icy roads.
Prepare your body: Maintain a slower pace for the first and last 5 minutes of your walk to act as a “warm-up” and “cool-down”. It is also important to gently stretch after walking to keep muscles flexible and strong.
Enjoy your walk: Listen to music or a podcast that you enjoy while walking. If you’re enjoying yourself, it will be easier to build a routine. If you don’t like walking alone, try walking with a friend. Having a walking buddy can help to hold you accountable.
Tips for Adding Walking into Your Day
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator when possible
- Walk to local stores instead of driving, or park further away from your destination
- Take your dog (or a friends dog) for a walk
- Get off public transport one stop earlier and walk the rest of your way
- Walk with friends around town or join a walking club
- Take a walk on the beautiful Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail.
Walking is so good for your body and your mind. Next time you got to turn on a TV show or check Facebook, try walking instead and notice how much better you’ll feel.