We learn to walk when we’re teeny babies. Those pudgy little legs carried us wherever we wanted and eventually brought us here — to this very spot. We’ve been walking so long, it’s understandable that we forget what a privilege it is. Not only this, we forget about all the benefits of walking for our health.
As we age, movements that we take for granted become more difficult. Walking is no exception and we eventually may need the assistance of a walker or wheelchair.
This isn’t news to anyone — and we likely know that getting regular exercise helps delay our body’s decline.
Let’s not focus on that, though. Let’s talk about what we can do today to keep ourselves healthy. Yes, walking counts.
The Many Benefits of Walking
Walking briskly everyday has been linked to so many different benefits. The cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart and can even help prevent coronary heart disease. We’ve mentioned before that our hearts are the muscle responsible for keeping us alive everyday; we owe it to ourselves to keep it healthy.
Going for a stroll after supper can even lower blood sugar. One study found that walking after every meal is best. Joint pain is reduced as the muscles surrounding our joints have a chance to build up over time. Walking at a faster pace has even been linked to a longer life.
That’s a short summary of a few select benefits, too. If you look into it yourself you’re bound to find lots of ways that walking improves our health.
How Many Steps Should We Really Get?
The most common step-count goal is 10,000 steps; although, this number has been debated. The 10,000 step goal became increasingly popular when Fitbit made it the target for all their products. They decided on the number because it translates to approximately 150 minutes of weekly exercise, which is what the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.
However, a recent study suggests that 15,000 steps can significantly lower your risk of heart disease. What seems to be the key factor though, isn’t the number of steps. It’s the intensity and pace that you walk with.
The beneficial effects only apply if you’re walking fast enough to raise your heart rate and maybe even sweat a little. If you walk 10,000 steps at a slow pace, unfortunately you won’t see the effects reported.
Have a read through these five tips to get the most benefits from walking.
#1: Walk Faster
As we just mentioned, you need to put some effort into your pace. If it’s cold and wintery outside, make sure you have proper footwear. You could also go to a walking track or arena if there’s one in your area.
You may need to remind yourself often to keep up the pace, but it’s worth it.
#2: Make a Pact
Call a friend that you’d like to catch-up with more often. Ask them if they want to start walking with you on Tuesdays (or whenever you’d like)!
This way you can hold each other accountable, while you look forward to regular chats. You won’t want to let them down by not going, and vise versa.
#3: Park Far Away
When you’re running errands, park at the end of the parking lot and practice your brisk walk in. Or if you’re ambitious, park a block away!
This is especially effective if you live somewhere where the wind and snow tugs at your jacket at every chance. Yep, you’ll want to walk quick.
Doing this a few times won’t help, though. Once it’s routine you’ll not only get more steps in but you’re also training your brain to walk faster in everyday scenarios.
#4: Count Steps
While we just showed you that the number of steps doesn’t matter as much as the pace, it’s still nice that we can track steps. Counting steps can open our eyes to the amount of walking we do already.
You can use a Fitbit watch or any other pedometer. There are free apps available for smartphones that count steps, too. The iPhone even has one built-in, called Health. If you have access to this, you can look at data from previous days and compare them right away.
One advantage of counting steps is that you can check in at supper time and make sure you’ve hit your goal for the day. Having said this, some people say that setting a goal in the first place can start a bad habit; if your goal is too low you likely won’t put in any extra effort.
Be ambitious! If you notice you’re hitting your goal easily, set it higher.
#5: Offer to Walk a Dog
If you have a dog yourself, you’re likely ahead of the game. Dogs need exercise just like we do, and walks are their favourite thing.
If you have a family member or a close friend with a pet, ask if you can join them for a walk. If you get along with their pet, you could offer to take him/her for a walk.
If you’re retired or have time during the day, think about friends of yours who work full-time. Their pets would love some company for those hours (and the exercise, too).
Not everyone will take up this offer, though. Some pets have gone through special training and only respond to their owners — don’t take it personally if they say, “No thanks.” Though you may just find a happy owner and an even happier pup to spend time with!
The main point to remember is that walking can be amazing for your health, but you need to keep a quick, consistent pace. Bundle-up, we’ll see you out there!