Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health – and there’s no easier (or more affordable) way to get fit than by walking.
Walking helps you maintain a healthy weight, and it reduces your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. It also builds healthy bones, muscles and joints. And of course, walking is a natural stress release and mood-booster.
“Walking is a wonderful, low-impact exercise that’s easy to do,” said Elisa Washburn, DO, a family medicine physician with St. Joseph Health Medical Group in Santa Rosa. “Even if you’re at work, focus on stepping away from your desk and taking a quick walk during lunch or during your breaks.”
Dr. Washburn recommends these five tips to get more movement into your everyday routine:
- Keep sneakers in your car. That way, you’ll always be prepared.
- Invest in an activity monitor. A simple pedometer or a tracking device can make walking more fun. Set a goal and then work to increase it.
- Invite friends out for a walk. Instead of grabbing coffee or lunch, ask your friends to take a walk. Whether it’s a brisk walk or a stroll, you’ll burn calories rather than consume them.
- Walk, don’t wait. If you’re waiting for your children at practice or dance lessons, take a quick walk instead of sitting on the sideline, in your car or on the couch.
- Park at a central place. When you have errands to run, park somewhere between all of your stops and walk instead of driving to each store or building.
Walk the Talk
These three tips can help motivate you to put on your tennis shoes instead of turning on the television:
- Make exercise a priority. Treat exercise like an appointment you can’t break. Also, if you have an exercise buddy who is relying on you to walk, that might help you stay committed.
- Keep a diary. Track how long and how far you walk. Write down any health changes you’re seeing, whether it’s weight loss, lowered blood pressure or increased energy levels. You’ll see how much you’ve done and your progress will increase your motivation!
- Join an event. Sign up for a charity walkathon or a 5K run (you can walk!) – you’ll have a goal date to prepare for.
Talk with your physician before starting a new exercise routine if you’ve never exercised, if you smoke or if you have heart disease or other chronic illnesses. Stop exercising and contact your health care provider if you experience chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or fainting while exercising.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.