Step Into Good Health
We all know that exercise is good for us. But getting started is often the hardest part. Gyms cost money, running hurts our knees, who wants to swim when it’s cold outside? Walking may be the answer – it’s the perfect way to ease back into exercise, free, usually painless, and can be done inside or out. It’s also great for your health.
Health benefits of walking
- Cardiovascular health: Walking just 2 ½ hours a week can cut your risk of heart disease by 30%, by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and reducing body fat.
- Diabetes: The American Diabetes Association says that walking can help lower blood sugar levels, improve metabolism, and increase insulin sensitivity – all good things for diabetics. And if you’re not diabetic, walking can reduce your chances of developing type II diabetes.
- Bones and muscles: As a weight-bearing activity, walking can strengthen your bones and muscles, reducing the risk of bone loss, arthritis, or joint pain as you get older.
- Mood and brain health: Several studies show that walking is effective at reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Another study showed it can increase activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for memory.
- Better sleep. Any type of exercise, including walking, can help you sleep better. It can be especially beneficial if you walk outdoors in the daylight and not too close to bedtime.
How can I walk more?
- Make it enjoyable. Pick a place you enjoy, like a local park. Walk the dog, walk with a friend, or listen to your favorite music.
- Make it easy. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park at the far end of the parking lot.
- Use your screen time. This might be one of those times when multitasking actually works! Set up your space so you can walk on a treadmill while watching TV or stand when using the computer.
- Use lunch and meetings. Take a walk on your lunch break or have “walking meetings” with colleagues at work.
Don’t forget about safety when you enjoy your new walking habit. Walk with others if possible and take a phone and ID with you. Make sure drivers can see you by wearing bright colors or reflective clothing. Finally, talk to your healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen if you have a chronic health problem like high blood pressure or diabetes, or if you experience dizziness, shortness of breath, or pain during a walk.2