Walking for health—you know you should exercise and walking is one of the easiest ways to do it, so—what’s holding you back?
Do any of these reasons look familiar?
“Any one can exercise… But this kind of lethargy TAKES proper discipline,” Garfield the cat
“I don’t have time to exercise,” my previous thinking.
“No way! I’m too embarrassed. I don’t want to be out there with all those slim fast walkers and joggers passing me up,” more of my previous thinking.
Yet, there’s no drug, potion, or brew that can do more to make you look good, feel good and be healthy than exercise. It’s a critical component of natural healing and health.
“If the health benefits of exercise could be put in a pill, you would have the most powerful anti-aging medicine available,” says Julian Whitaker, MD, natural health expert.
There’s lots of ways to exercise, with walking for health being most popular. It’s hands down the simplest and most convenient form of exercise. Besides, it doesn’t require fancy equipment or lessons either.
We are all creatures of habit. Unfortunately, too often habits get formed without our being aware of them, like coming home from work, plopping in the easy chair and watching TV.
These kinds of habits feel good until you get sluggish, start putting on the pounds, or worse yet end up with a debilitating illness. Like Garfield, you start thinking your habit is the natural you.
Not so… the human body requires movement and activity. Your muscles shrink, fat cells become more active, and you literally lose calcium out of your bones when not active.
Walking is something we all know how to do, making it a great way to step into an exercise habit.
Once you have a “Walking for Health Habit,” you can enjoy all the proven benefits of exercise.
Helps You Feel Good:
Reduces tension, anxiety, and depression; improves sleep and self-esteem.
Rejuvenates Your Heart and Circulation:
Strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure, increases blood supply to muscles, and delvers more oxygen to your body.
Strengthens Muscles, Joints and Bones:
Helps prevent osteoporosis, increases flexibility, and improves posture.
Improves Overall Health:
Improves immune function; increases endurance, and energy levels; aids digestion and elimination; helps lower cholesterol levels and raise the protective HDL cholesterol; helps you lose pounds.
Here are some tips for forming a “walking for health” habit gleamed from the research and advice of natural health experts, Ray Strand, MD, and Julian Whitaker, MD.
Walking for Health Habit Tips
- Gradually increase your walking to 30 to 45 minutes five days a week.Build up to comfortably walking 30 minutes three times a week during the first month. Then, when you feel ready, increase your time gradually to five times a week.Once you are comfortable at five times a week, pick up the pace, and walk more briskly. Medical studies show that when you increase the pace of your walk (breathe a little harder and increase your pulse rate) you have greater benefit.You can even get more benefit when you push yourself for about one minute on four different occasions during a 30-minute period.
“This means simply to pick up your pace during a brisk walk, riding a bike, or swimming for just one minute and then back off to your previous level of activity. Then 5 or 6 minutes later increase your output again for another minute. This change is good for the cardiovascular system and for improving insulin resistance,” says Strand.
Over time, increase your walking time to 45 minutes.
Pay attention to your body. Build up your endurance gradually. The body needs time to adjust and days off to recover.
One of the main reasons people fail in developing a walking for health habit is that they try to get in shape too fast and end up hurting themselves. Be patient and kind to yourself.
It all counts… every step you increase brings you closer to walking for health. If you have been… well, very inactive you can start increasing steps with these simple activities:
- Park further from building entrances
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator
- In office settings, when possible walk over to talk with a fellow worker instead of calling them.
- Choose a method that’s right for you.Some people do best when they walk with a group. For others, walking with a group is the last thing they want to do. If groups are for you, invite friends to join you. Fitness centers, hospitals, and community colleges may offer walking groups too.
- Make your walk enjoyable.Wear comfortable fitting shoes. Walking shoes that fit properly help prevent blisters and injuries and help you stick with your walking program.Wear comfortable loose fitting clothing. Layered clothing like tee shirts and sweatshirts helps you adjust for changing temperatures.Walk in a setting that feels safe and good to you. Use the time to soak up the beauty around you.
You can increase the benefits of walking for health by practicing mindfulness.
Become more aware of yourself and surroundings by noticing the architecture of buildings or the sensation of your feet as they touch the earth. Feel appreciation for the blue of the sky or green of the trees and watch the birds fly by.
Have an alternative plan for times of bad weather. Some like walking in a mall or you may want to invest in use of a treadmill or exercise bike.
- Schedule your walks.Schedule walking for health just as you would any other event you value (a meeting, favorite TV show, etc.). Put it on your calendar. Most of us tend to live scheduled lives, if it doesn’t get on the schedule it’s not likely to get done.If you think there’s not time in your schedule… look again. What are you doing that really doesn’t really need to be done?
- Can you use 30 minutes of your lunchtime to walk?
- Is there a TV show that’s really not that important to watch?
- Can you wake up 30 minutes earlier for a walk in the fresh morning air?
- Use a pedometer.A pedometer is a great motivator and helps you keep track of your progress. They cost very little and are easy to use.Start by wearing it during a full day to see how many steps you are already taking. Then start increasing steps, with a goal of 10,000 steps a days.Keep a record of how many steps you take each day. You can track steps on your calendar along with your walking schedule.
- Warm up, Stretch, and Cool Down.Start out walking slowly for about 5-minutes then take a few minutes to gently stretch (calf, quadriceps, hamstring and iliotibial muscles). Toward the end of your walk cool down by walking slowly for 5-minutes and repeat your stretches.This helps reduce stress on your heart and joints.
Follow these tips and you’ll be feeling and looking better, and you’ll be healthier too. Your body is made to be active, it’s made to walk.
If you are over 40 or have a health condition, check with your health provider before beginning an exercise activity. If you have pain or physical limitations, see a physical therapist or personal trainer for an individualized plan.
Most of all start your “walking for health habit” today!