Exercise should be regarded as tribute to the heart — anonymous
If it seems as if more people are hoofing it for their health, it’s true. More than 145 million Americans count walking as part of their physical activity, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s 15 million more people walking than in 2005.
Only about 48% of Americans report they meet the recommendation of at least 2½ hours of moderate physical activity a week. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle has another downside: a greater risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure that threatens our longevity.
“People think in order to get physical active, they have to be back in the exercise mode. They don’t realize that walking is almost the perfect activity,” says physician Joan Dorn, chief of the CDC’s physical activity and health branch. “A lap around the block is better than not taking that lap. Most of us can find 10 minutes if we really try.”
Walking requires little other than a pair of shoes and can fit in the busiest of schedules. Just 30 minutes of regular brisk walking — about the pace if you are trying to reach a bus before it pulls away — can help lower your cholesterol, risk of stroke and some cancers, and it can improve your cognitive function and blood pressure. If 30 minutes is too much, consider breaking it up into three 10-minute chunks during the day for the same benefits.
The simplicity of walking is one of its key advantages, Joyner says. Though some people prefer the pavement-pounding rush of running, it also comes with an increased risk of injuries. Walking is something most people can do without much preparation or training, regardless of age.
Please consult with your physician prior to beginning an exercise program.
If you are just beginning a walking program, have a health challenge or are elderly, we recommend walking in a mall where the temperature is controlled, with ample seating, rest rooms and beverages available.
In addition to walking we recommend hiking, swimming, and water aerobics, and burst training.
Tips to keep you moving
- Skip the e-mail at work. Go talk to the source. You’ll put those leg muscles to use, and you may earn some valuable face time.
- Drink water — lots of it. First, you’ll have to get up more for associated bathroom breaks and second, you’ll keep yourself hydrated through the day.
- Set yourself a reminder. Program your cellphone to alert you to get up every half-hour or hour to stretch or walk around.
- Rethink your lunch break. If possible, start your workday earlier so you can take a longer lunch. Use the time to take a walk, work out or just get away.
- Relocate office supplies. Move the location of your printer or fax machine to make yourself get up from your desk.
- Go high-tech. Body monitoring devices like fitbit, the Basis Band and the BodyMedia FIT clip, clasp or strap on, to give you readouts on steps, miles, calories and more.
- Grab ’n’ go shoes. Keep a pair of sneakers at your desk to “sneak” in occasional 15-minute power walks.
- Skip the easy route. Take the stairs at least once a day for a leg-toner.
Maps & apps. Smartphone apps such as Walkmeter and MapMyWalk help you keep track of routes, speed and distance. You can post results on Facebook and Twitter.
Meet your match. Find walking clubs by state at the American Volkssport Association www.ava.org