Everyone thinks that exercise has to be painful to get any benefit. I don’t agree. Although I do love a good workout, there’s a lot to be said for doing an activity that doesn’t take a lot of thought or even sweat: walking. As Virginia McLaurin recently said during her visit with President Obama and the First Lady when asked the secret of being able to dance at age 106, she replied, “Just keep moving.”
Walking is a great way to just keep moving. It’s something that almost everyone can do, and you can walk as far, as fast, and wherever you want.
Backup from Health Experts
Just a few months ago, the Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, recognized the value of walking for good health when he launched his Step It Up! call to action to get people walking more. The official web site of the Surgeon General notes that walking and physical activity helps reduce the risk factors associated with chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It even goes so far as to encourage communities to develop in ways that support walking.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted in a 2012 briefing about a five year study of walking by U.S. adults that “physical activity really is a wonder drug.” He went on to say that, “Walking turns out to be the easiest most accessible, most popular way that Americans get physical activity.” He explained that just two and a half hours of physical activity each week reduces our risk for chronic diseases and improves mental health.
A separate article Harvard Medical School article claims that exercising that two and a half hours each week, which equates to just 21 minutes a day, reduces your chance of heart disease by 30 percent. It further mentions a study by the University of Utah that found that women lower their risk of obesity by 5 percent for each minute of brisk walking done each day.
Ways to Start Walking
Establishing any good habit is always easier when you find a way to work it into your daily or weekly routine and with people (or an animal) to encourage you to do it. Here are just a few ways to make walking part of your routine:
Walk the Dog. Not everyone has a dog, but if you do, they’re happy for the exercise and it helps you, too.
Form or Join a Walking Group. You can easily organize a walking group or set up a walk with a partner to meet at a specific time each day. If you don’t know anyone who is willing to commit, just look at the various meetup groups or your local community center to connect you with a group.
Walk to the Grocery Store. If you live relatively near your local grocery store, just walk there, shop and walk back. My sister and I started doing that recently, and it was a great way to begin exercising and get outdoors.
Park Your Car at the Far End of the Parking Lot. If you can’t walk to the grocery store, this is the next best thing. It doesn’t seem like much, but walking across the parking lot and back to your car adds up. If you have a step counter or have a health tracking device on your smartphone, you’d be surprised at how many steps can add up like this.
Walk the Kids to School. This not only benefits you, but helps your kids stay healthy, too. If the school is within a couple of miles of your home and there’s a safe route to walk there, get a great start on the day by taking a morning stroll to school. Schools are out right now, but you could walk them to the playground just to make it an easier transition for them when school does start up in the fall.
Walk to Work. This is the same idea as walking the kids to school. It’s a great way to clear your mind before work and after while taking care of your physical health.
Visit Ikea and Get Lost. I am only half joking with this one. When it’s rainy here in the Northwest, one of the best ways to get exercise is to visit Ikea and wander through the whole store. You don’t have to get lost, but sometimes it happens anyway and you get a bit more exercise than you intended!
Share Your Secrets to Success with Walking
Let me know of any creative ways you get exercise through walking that make it fun and part of your routine? Then further improve your cardiovascular health by making my Black Bean, Rice, and Corn Salad recipe.