Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate the Power of Walking

Exercise is an essential part of healthy living—and walking is one of the easiest ways to get and stay fit. If you’ve been less active than you’d like to be, walking is an ideal way to get moving and make a difference in your health. Plus, you can do it almost anywhere, anytime.

Whether you’re looking to move more, take up a group fitness class, or complete a 5K one day, here’s how you can use the power of walking to step into fitness and reach your goals.

Health Benefits of Walking

Daily walking can benefit your physical and emotional well-being in many ways. It can help you:

• Keep your weight in check

• Curb sugar cravings

• Manage stress and anxiety

• Sleep better and feel more energized

• Strengthen muscles and ease joint pain

• Reduce risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes

• Decrease risk of developing breast cancer

• Boost creativity and brainpower

• Improve your ability to do daily activities

Walk Your Way to Fitness

So, how can you fit more walking into your busy life? Ideally, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. If fitting in that amount of activity into your busy life seems daunting, don’t worry. All you need is 5 – 10 minutes of at a time to reap the health benefits of walking.

Here are some ideas for you to try:

• Do active chores. While doing housework isn’t traditionally considered a workout, all that activity can certainly help you get in shape. Plenty of chores involve walking about or racking up steps, such as mopping the kitchen, vacuuming the carpets, raking up leaves, mowing the lawn, washing the car, gathering up items for donations—the list goes on and on!

• Have a Netflix and workout night: Like most of us, there are likely some nights when all you want to do is crash on the couch and binge-watch your favorite shows. But who says you can’t get hooked into the story and get your workout on? Challenge yourself to spend the first 10 minutes of every half an hour marching, side-stepping, or jogging in place. Be sure to pump your arms as you go to really get your heart rate up. Or you might look into investing in a home treadmill to keep you moving instead of sitting.

• Add variety to your walking routes: Following the same route every day can get real boring, real quick. Keep your walks interesting by picking out a few different routes you can take around your workplace, in your neighborhood, or at a nearby park. Look for long-stretches of sidewalks, paved walking paths, or well-maintained dirt trails for even more scenic variety.

• Go for a walking meeting: Does your mind tend to wander during humdrum meetings? Walking can strengthen your memory, giving you better recall of what important details were covered in that meeting. If you’re having a one-on-one check-in with a direct report, go for a stroll and breathe in some fresh air as you catch up. Or if there’s a conference call and you’re able to dial in, grab your cell phone, put on your walking shoes, and step to it. (Tip: Instead of holding your phone up to your ear, use your earbuds during the call—many brands offer inexpensive earbuds with built-in microphones, so you can talk while you walk.)

• Make the most of business travel: It may seem impossible to squeeze in a workout when traveling on business. But the good news is there are a few ways you can get in a short walk and keep your momentum going away from home. If you can, walk from your hotel to the conference or meeting you’re attending, and do a little sightseeing along the way. Or call ahead and see if the hotel offers an onsite gym and start your day with a brisk walk on the treadmill. You could also plan to stick around an extra day and wander around a nearby museum or two.

• Find ways to sneak in extra steps. Getting in a few extra steps throughout the day really adds up and can even increase your endurance and stamina for those longer walking workouts. Park your car at the back of the parking lot. Take a walk break on your lunch hour with a coworker. Get off the bus a stop or 2 earlier. Go on an easy hike with a friend or group. Leash up your dog and go for a quick walk around the block together.

Ready, Set, Walk!

Have you been putting off exercise? There’s no better time than now to get your heart pumping with a walking activity. Start out at your own pace to avoid injury and increase your fitness gains. And above all else, have fun with it! Remember, everything you do to work toward a more active lifestyle will also help you to live your best health ever. 

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Bret Scher, MD FACC

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