Are you feeling worn out? Stressed out? Bummed out? Then it’s time for you to step out!
If there is such a thing as a miracle prescription for health and well-being, a regular program of walking just might be it. Walking is actually the No. 1 recommended movement for every body—regardless of your age or ability. Walking regularly strengthens your bones, boosts your immunity, improves your posture and lifts your mood. It can even help sharpen memory and tame a sweet tooth.
The hardest thing about walking is just getting started. So if you’re ready to quit balking and start walking, 24Life has gathered a roundup of expert tips to help you put your best foot forward.
Start with a single step
Yoga teacher and freelance writer Meagan McCrary says that the first and most important step you can take for your health is to start walking at any pace, for any amount of time.
Once you’ve received the go-ahead from your doctor, begin walking five minutes a day, building up to 30 minutes a day multiple times a week on a safe path, road or track. Vary your terrain and your route to keep it interesting for your body and for your mind. And if you’re too busy, know that walking 15 minutes twice a day works great, too!
In general, a brisker pace and longer stride will yield greater benefits, but do what you can. The most important thing is to regularly move your body.
Pick up the pace
Once you begin your walking program, you will need to keep up the pace to reap the health benefits. But determining the proper pace may be confusing.
Enter Catrine Tudor-Locke, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Tudor-Locke conducted a review of existing research on measures of walking effort such as pace, cadence, heart rate and respiration, and she published her findings in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Using 38 different studies that included men and women at very different body weights aged 18 to elderly, Tudor-Locke’s team found that what made walking brisk or “moderate” was a pace of about 2.7 miles per hour, or 100 steps per minute.
That’s easy to calculate without a heart-rate monitor, she says. Simply count your steps for 10 seconds and multiply that by six to see whether you’re meeting the threshold.
Current federal exercise guidelines call for 30 minutes of brisk walking most days, which translates into 3,000 steps at that 100-steps-per-minute pace.
Get footloose with friends
When it comes to motivating yourself to walk on a regular basis, there can be strength in numbers. Walking with others is a unique opportunity to expand your real-life social network while also enhancing your workout.
You can call your friends, use social media and even put up flyers in your neighborhood to get new members interested in walking, according to Diana Nyad and Bonnie Stoll who run EverWalk Nation, a nonprofit group that encourages walking. Ask your friends if they know other friends or co-workers who might want to join. AARP suggests going to your local community center, YMCA or senior center to see whether there is interest in starting a new walking group.
Shift into high gear with gadgets
One of the best ways to start and maintain your walking program is to hold yourself accountable. Gadgets can be a big help in monitoring your walking program, whether you choose to walk for an extended period or add extra steps into everyday activities.
Rory J. O’Connor, a journalist and technophile, says that pretty much every device, from your fancy smartwatch to an inexpensive step counter that slips into your pocket, will let you set a step goal and nudge you to meet it. Step goals are among the easiest fitness goals to hit—take the stairs instead of the escalator, or get off the bus a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way, and those steps start to add up.
Go the extra mile
Walking alone won’t lead to a healthy lifestyle—you should also focus on eating well, taking time for recovery, getting plenty of quality sleep and keeping a positive mindset. By adding these healthy habits to your regular walking program, you’ll be able to go the distance in your lifelong fitness journey.
Photo credit: Alvin Mahmudov, Unsplash