By Michele Stanten, Walking Coach and ACE-Certified Group Fitness Instructor
There are countless physical activities out there, but walking is one the easiest ways to make a positive change and effectively improve your health. Studies have found that even two-minute walking breaks can improve the function of disease-fighting and metabolism-boosting genes. And as little as one minute of walking at a heart-pumping pace can help keep pounds off.
Even if you already walk for exercise, hit the gym or do some other type of workout regularly, walking is essential to your wellbeing. Why? The latest research shows that sitting too much is more dangerous than smoking—and 30- to 60-minutes of exercise a day isn’t enough to counteract it. In one study, researchers saw changes in arteries that may contribute to heart disease after just three hours of sitting—and that was in healthy 20-somethings. The good news: just five minutes of movement every hour prevented it.
Other reasons to hit the pavement, outside of the well-known benefits such reduced risk of heart diseases and diabetes, better mood, lower blood pressure and weight loss are:
· Walking boosts creativity by 60 percent
· A 15-minute walk can curb chocolate cravings
· A lunchtime walk can boost productivity at work
· Walking with a friend, spouse, or child can build a stronger relationship with them
Below are some easy strategies to incorporate walking into your day compiled by walking coach Michele Stanten.
1. Keep sneakers in your car. That way you’re prepared to take a walk anytime you have a few extra minutes. Early to a doctor appointment? Stroll around the block.
2. Walk, don’t wait. Instead of sitting on the bleachers while your kid is at soccer practice or in the waiting room during dance class, take a walk.
3. Invite friends for walks instead of coffee or lunch. You’ll burn calories instead of consuming them.
4. Have multiple routes. Many walkers always walk from the same location. Expand your options by walking from any location that you frequent. Start a walk from home, work, your kids’ schools, the grocery store, or a friend or family member’s home. Anywhere you find yourself at least once a week is a possible starting point. The more options you have the more likely you are to walk.
5. Park once. The norm in many suburban shopping centers is to park by one store, go in and shop, then drive to the next one. Instead park at a central location and walk to all of the stores, even if you have to return to the car in between to drop off packages—bonus steps!
6. Get an activity monitor. From simple pedometers to FitBits, these wearable activity tracking devices can motivate you to move more. See how much you normally walk, and then set incremental goals to increase the number of steps you take or the number of calories you burn each day. The benefits will multiply as the numbers do.