Walk The Walk

Strolling Your Way to Better Health

BY MIMI GREENWOOD KNIGHT

The average American takes about 5,117 steps per day — equivalent to walking approximately two and a half miles. Compare this to UK residents who average 6,322 steps daily. The Japanese average 7,168, the Swiss 9,650, and Western Australians average 9,695 steps a day, almost twice that of Americans. Here are some compelling reasons we should all work to get those numbers up.

According to the American Heart Association, research has shown that walking at a lively pace for at least 150 minutes a week can help you:

  • Think better, feel better, and sleep better
  • Reduce your risk of serious diseases like heart disease,
    stroke, diabetes, and several types of cancer
  • Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood
    cholesterol levels
  • Increase your energy and stamina
  • Improve your mental and emotional well-being and reduce the risk of depression
  • Improve memory and reduce your risk of dementia
  • Boost bone strength and reduce your risk of osteoporosis
  • Prevent weight gain

Per the Better Health Channel, you carry your own body weight when you walk. This is known as weight-bearing exercise. Some of the benefits include:

  • Increased cardiovascular and
    pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Improved management of conditions
    such as hypertension, joint, and
    muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
  • Improved balance
  • Increased muscle strength
    and endurance
  • Reduced body fat

Get Your 30

Health experts agree that 30 minutes a day at a brisk pace is a good goal for most of us, but what’s considered brisk? If you can carry on a conversation but not necessarily sing, you’re walking briskly. Of course, as with any exercise, if you’re not already walking, consult your doctor before beginning a
walking regimen.

Best Foot Forward

Don’t scrimp when it comes to walking shoes. The wrong footwear can lead to foot or shin pain, blisters, plantar fasciitis, and soft tissue injuries. It’s also good to vary the surface on which you walk so your foot isn’t always landing the same way. The proper walking form is heel, instep, toe with a light, easy step, head up, spine elongated, and core tight.

Keep It Fun

Vary your route to keep things interesting. Walk with a friend or coworker or even join a walking club. If you have a dog, by all means, take him along. Listen to a podcast or audiobook as you go. Vary the time of day you walk or drive to a park or downtown area to enjoy new sights and sounds.

Challenge Yourself

Keep things interesting by challenging yourself to walk farther or faster. Introduce light hand or ankle weights or hand movements such as boxing the air. (Never extend the arm all the way.) Walk uphill and downhill — alternate walking and jogging. Wear a pedometer or smart watch that chronicles your weekly averages and always try to improve.  

And remember, if the weather is uncooperative, the mall can be a fun place to get in your daily 30.

Get Creative

  • Take a walk during your lunch break alone or with a coworker.
  • Schedule walking meetings.
  • Walk while talking on the phone.
  • Set a reminder on your phone or smartwatch to get up and move every 30 minutes.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park far from your destination and walk to and from your car.
  • If you live in a walkable town, do as many errands as possible on foot.
  • Drink lots of water, so you get up often for refills and to hit the restroom.
  • Walk to another restroom instead of using the one closest to you.
  • Walk a lap around the mall or grocery store before you start shopping.
  • Adopt a dog who’ll need to be walked.
  • Skip the drive-thru at the pharmacy or bank. Walk inside instead.
  • Enjoy a walk while your child has soccer practice or piano lessons.