Walking for 30 to 40 minutes each day is one of the best decisions you can make for your body, mind and spirit.
Along with being natural and easy on your joints, study after study shows that walking provides you with tremendous mental and physical health benefits:
• Walking improves mood by increasing endorphins (your body’s feel good hormones) while helping to decrease stress and anxiety by lowering the stress hormone cortisol.
• A commitment to taking more steps routinely also lowers body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, knee pain and stiffness, and the risk of stroke, colon cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
• Additionally, walking helps with mental sharpness — improving memory, your ability to focus, blood circulation, bone and muscle strength, sleep quality, breathing and immune function and your ability to fight off infections.
• Walking increases your length of life — yes, walkers live longer!
• Studies show that by adding 2000 more steps a day to your regular activities, you may never gain another pound.
• And to lose weight, add in more steps. While you still need to eat a balanced, healthy diet, walking helps you build healthy lean muscle, lose inches of fat and pump up your metabolism. Of longterm successful weight losers, almost all maintain a program of walking or other exercises.
Walking — great, healthy moves
All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes and to get out the door or onto the treadmill. With a friend or alone, you can reap the benefits of walking, via several shorter walks or one longer walk during the day.
Heard of 10,000 steps per day? Research shows that 10,000 steps per day isn’t a magic number but rather a good indicator of how much activity a person is achieving in a day. And walking more steps per day is also associated with healthy weight and BMI. Most weight loss programs recommend burning 200 to 300 calories per day in moderate to vigorous exercise — and if you’re walking 10,000 steps per day you should be burning enough calories.
Some think walking is not “hot and heavy” enough to have an impact on their weight and overall health. This is not true. Walking is a great way to begin and improve conditioning. Whether you decide to walk or run depends on your preference and individual needs. Both provide health benefits. And for many, engaging in a walking program most days of the week is easier to adhere to than running.
Research shows “sitting” is the new smoking, increasing your risk for heart disease, diabetes and even death. Sitting reduces blood flow to your legs — but just 10 minutes of walking can help. Scientists found that even after six hours of sitting, a 10-minute walk got blood flowing correctly in the legs again.
Here are some tips:
• You don’t need any special equipment, except for walking shoes. Look for shoes that support your arch, are slightly elevated at your heel and have a flexible sole. Good walking form involves heel-to-toe — your heel contacting the ground and then rolling gradually to your toes
• Walk in your neighborhood, a park, school track or indoors on a treadmill or around a mall or grocery store. Consider walking in place while watching television (or place a treadmill in front of the television).
• If you’re sedentary or have a medical condition such as heart or lung disease, talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
• You can go as fast or slow as you need, and you can spread out your walking throughout your day. There are cumulative benefits! Taking walking breaks helps break up sedentary/sitting time, which is beneficial.
• Create a walking plan where you start slowly (e.g., a few blocks for a week) and then increase it every week to attain your goal (e.g., 10,000 steps).
• Pick-up the pace if your health permits. Experts define this as about 100 steps per minute for adults under age 60. An average easy walking pace is 20 minutes per mile (about 3-4 mph), and a fast pace is 12 minutes per mile (5 mph). A general rule of thumb is that 10 minutes of walking equates to nearly 1,000 steps.
• Use a pedometer or your smart phone to track your steps.
Walking routinely not only wards off more diseases than you count on both hands, it also soothes the mind, inspires creativity, and boosts your mood.
Dr. Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contribut or and textbook author. Email questions for Dr. Nina to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Dr. Nina” in the subject line. This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional.