Happy National Walking Day! National Walking Day is the first Wednesday of April. This day is to encourage and remind people of healthy walking habits that can have a great impact on their overall health and help prevent diseases! Physical activity does not always have to be running or an intense impact on your body. A simple daily walk can lead to a healthier lifestyle!
Faster walking and brisk walking, although not running helps:
Maintain a healthy weight – A brisk 30-minute walk can burn approximately 200 calories and over time calories burned can lead to pounds lost
Prevent/help control conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and improve circulation- walking bring up your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and strengthens the heart
Boosts immune function – Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.
Build muscle and strengthen bones- walking can help stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis. Walking tones your leg and abdominal muscles and even arm muscles if you pump them as you walk. This increases your range of motion, shifting the pressure and weight from your joints to your muscles.
Improve/boost mood- walking releases natural endorphins that help improve your mental state
Improve balance and coordination
Turning your normal walk into a fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements. Ideally, here’s how you’ll look when you’re walking:
Your head is up. You are looking forward, not at the ground.
Your neck, shoulders, and back are relaxed, not stiffly upright.
You are swinging your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows. A little pumping with your arms is OK.
Your stomach muscles are slightly tightened and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward.
You are walking smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
Steps to a healthy walking routine:
Warm-up: Walk slower for 5-10 minutes to warm up your body and prepare for exercise. As you begin to warm up gradually pick up your pace and get into your brisk stride.
Cooldown: At the end of your walk, walk slower for 5-10 minutes to help your muscles cool down.
After Cooldown: Gently stretch your muscles.
Set Realistic Goals:
For most adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity.
As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. If you can’t set aside that much time in one sitting, try several short sessions of activity throughout the day. Any amount of activity is better than none at all. Even small amounts of physical activity are helpful, and accumulated activity throughout the day adds up to provide health benefits.
Remember it’s OK to start slowly — especially if you haven’t been exercising regularly. You might start with five minutes a day the first week, and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes.
For even more health benefits, aim for at least 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
Stay safe while walking:
While walking is for the most part a safe, accessible workout, you should still keep these things in mind to avoid injury or risky situations.
If you’re walking solo, make sure you tell a friend where you’re going. Consider sharing your route or location via a phone app
Heading off the grid? Download a map of the area where you’ll walk, so you can find your way back, even if cell coverage is spotty.
Listening to music? Use only one earphone or clip a small speaker on your shoulder instead of plugging your ears with speakers. This allows you to still hear things in your surroundings.
Stay hydrated- especially in the heat. Drink water before and after, and if you walk and sweat for over an hour, consider using an electrolyte-balancing beverage
Be sure you can see and hear traffic if you walk in a populated area. Walk facing the traffic, in well-lit areas. If you’re walking early or late in the day, wear something reflective so cars can see you.