When asking patients what sort of daily exercise they are getting I often receive the response “well, I walk all day.” I don’t want to be discouraging but that’s not exactly the exercise I’m talking about. We were built to be ambulatory creatures. We weren’t meant to sit on the couch, at our desk, in the car or in a chair for 8-12 hours a day (the national average). Meaning we are spending 60 percent of our waking time in sedentary activities. Our physiology was designed to spend our days hunting, gathering, dancing, crawling, climbing, and yes, even walking. Our genome craves it, we can actually alter our genes based on our level or activity!
Now, if you do make it a habit of walking for exercise – or if you’re going to start – here’s what you need to know. In order to receive a benefit from walking it should be done as often as possible. I’m talking about more than just taking breaks at work, using the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from the door, etc. Make walking a challenge. You will almost never see me with a cart at the grocery store. I’ll either bundle my groceries in my arms (this also keeps me from impulse buying) or I’ll grab a basket and carry it (most of us ladies could use more toned arms).
Make it a family game. Buy pedometers for everyone and see who wins on a – daily, weekly, monthly basis. Challenge each other to push further, add steps in before work or school, start a walking club at work to get everyone away from their desk during lunch, take a family walk together after dinner. If family and friends aren’t supporting your goals find your own tribe! There are tons of active people looking for comrades. Join a walking club or start your own. We have to keep each other healthy! Creating a consistent habit, especially one backed by the support of others is the easiest way to stay on track.
How far do you need to go? There really is no magic number – the 10,000 daily steps is an awesome goal, originating in Japan with pedometers sold in the 1960s. It’s not only an easy number to remember it’s practical for most people. It translates into about five miles daily and should be done at a moderate pace. Meaning hypothetically you could “walk” it in just over an hour’s time. Take an hour away from your television watching or computer time (which is probably done sitting) and get out there and walk.
Your results will depend on your goals. Are you looking to improve your cardiovascular health? Wanting to lose weight? Just maintain your health? Watching your diet as well as adding in exercise will double-time your results. Make sure to speak with your physician to outline a personal set of goals and recommendations for your wellness program before starting anything new.
Now get out there and walk!
This post was originally published on September 16, 2015 on American Daily News.