How walking can improve your physical and mental well-being
Admittedly, we are not all avid exercisers but staying active is an essential part of maintaining a healthy body and mind. If hours at the gym or intense cardio workouts are not for you, that’s okay. Walking is an easy and inexpensive way to wake up those endorphins and get you feeling energized.
No more couch potato status
We’ve all been there. Sometimes we just want to sit, relax and do nothing. That’s okay every now and then but a sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity, heart problems and a myriad of other health issues. Even the most avid couch potatoes can get active with baby steps.
Some essentials before you start
Good walking/running shoes – invest in a good pair of walking or running shoes. Not sure what to buy? Go to your nearest sports store and tell the salesperson the type of activity you want to do. They will recommend the best shoe for you. If you plan to walk in the forest or on more rugged terrain, you may opt for a hiking shoe. Again, an expert can advise which type of shoe is right for you.
Water – It’s important to stay hydrated no matter the distance you walk. A good habit is to drink a glass of water before you head out on your walk and another upon your return. Once you’re ready for longer-distanced walks, you can carry a portable bottle with you. You can opt for one that fastens around your waist or arm.
Check with your doctor – If you are currently inactive or have a chronic illness, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know you’re starting a walking plan. It’s just a precaution but getting the green light from your healthcare provider will give you peace of mind so that you can enjoy your new activity.
Let’s start walking
Start slow and short – Start with a slow-paced walk around the block. If you are new to walking, a five or ten-minute walk, at a slow pace, is sufficient.
Walk daily – No matter the distance or pace you walk, do it daily. If you feel more tired one day, just go slowly and for a short period. The main thing is that you’re moving your body daily.
Increase your pace and distance – With time, you’ll know when you can start increasing your pace and distance. You may want to go around the block a second time, then you can push a little further distance-wise. Listen to your body. Go at a comfortable pace but when that feels too easy, go a little faster for a little longer. Building up to 30-60 minutes daily is ideal but remember, even a few minutes is better than no minutes.
How you move
If a shuffle is all you can manage, that’s okay. However, your ultimate goal is to walk with long, fluid strides and swinging arms. This will get your heart pumping and the benefits will be greater. Do not do any abrupt movement that could cause injury or aggravate an already-existing condition. Do what feels comfortable to you.
Count your steps – Using a pedometer is a great way to stay motivated. Seeing a jump from 500 steps to 1000 is good for you, psychologically speaking. An increase in steps means improvement and that is a great incentive.
Pair up with a buddy – Walking with someone is a great motivator. The old adage “there’s power in numbers” is true. Walking with a friend is fun and you can chat along the way which is a wonderful way to keep your mind active and your spirits high.
Need added incentive to start walking?
A simple activity like walking can help reduce chronic pain by eliminating inflammation. It is good for your heart and strengthens your bones. It also helps with weight loss and an added bonus… walking releases endorphins and that keeps your mind clear and your spirit energized. So put down that remote, don some good shoes and hit the pavement. You’ll be glad you did.