Without needing a gym membership or expensive equipment, you can get your daily recommended amount of physical activity by simply walking.
We have been walking for the majority of our lives yet the action of taking each step, one at a time, is often overlooked when it comes to walking as an exercise in our daily lives.
Believe it or not, there are myriad benefits to walking as it is a great way to boost your mental and physical health, and there is a science to back this up.
Dr. Robert Sallis, a family physician and sports medicine doctor with Kaiser Permanente in California, spoke on the matter saying “walking is the most studied form of exercise and multiple studies have proven it’s the best thing we can do to improve our health and increase our longevity and functional years”.
For example, in a study consisting of more than 44,0000 Canadians, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2019, it was found that people living in more walkable neighbourhoods had a lower overall risk of cardiovascular disease.
In other words, by living in communities where amenities were within walking distance, the study found that people living in these communities, choosing to walk, had a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases when compared to other neighbourhoods.
Here are 5 ways you can get the most benefits out of your walk:
Walk as Much as You Can
Experts generally agree that any amount of walking will be good for your overall health, but to maximize the benefits of walking as exercise, you will need to make a conscious effort to walk as much as you can in your daily routine.
The general health advice is to do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity walking five days per week.
It goes without saying that more is better, however, according to Dr. Sallis, “you can get a significant portion of the health benefits of walking with just that moderate amount”.
With the advent of the fitness tracking devices industry and popular products like Fitbits, it has become easier for people to track how many steps they take in a day.
On average, most people would aim for a daily goal of 10,000 steps per day or roughly 8km of walking each day.
While at first, this can sound intimidating, you would be surprised at how many steps you take in a day naturally as a result of your daily routines.
“Walking as much as you can” is as simple as making the choice to run errands on foot, parking a little further from the entrance of your destination, or even getting off the bus of your daily commute a stop early.
According to Dr. Nicholas Howell of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, these small adjustments can “help fit in a few extra steps each day and they all add up”.
Change it Up, Pick Up the Pace
Another way to get the most out of your walks is to change the intensity by picking up the pace and doing it faster.
By picking up the pace, you will be able to take more steps in your walk and it will take less time to do the walk and reach your step goals without losing the health benefits associated with walking.
In fact, in a study published in 2017 in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, it was found that people who had a faster stepping rate had similar outcomes (such as lower Body Mass Index and lower waist circumference) than those who took the most steps per day.
Based on these findings, one of the authors of the study recommended that walkers try for a minimum of 100 steps per minute (roughly 4 – 5 kilometres per hour) or as fast of a brisk pace as they can with 135 steps per minute getting you up to a 6.5 kilometre per hour pace.
Divide the Walking into Smaller Walking Breaks
Trying to reach 10,000 steps a day can be quite intimidating if you plan to take a 10,000-step walk in one go.
While it may be possible for some individuals, for others it may be quite discouraging thought to do that many steps in one go.
For these reasons, it is helpful to consider taking smaller walking breaks to reach your step goals and suddenly 10,000 steps become more doable.
Aim for a brisk walking break of about 10 minutes or more at a time throughout your day and you’ll find that you have reached your goal before you knew it.
Not only will you get more steps in, but you will also be decreasing the amount of time you spend being sedentary such as sitting at your desk or laying down on the couch.
Try Interval Training to Mix Things Up
If 30 minutes of walking at a moderate pace feel boring but you have the energy to do more, try doing a high-intensity interval training walk.
Through this type of training, you will be alternating between bursts of faster walking followed by intervals of slower-paced recovery walking.
If you’re not sure how to run one, apps such as Nike’s Run Club have a great library of audio-guided runs that can help guide you through a high-intensity interval run.
By increasing both the intensity and duration of your walk, you will be maximizing the health benefits from each of your walks.
While there is something symbolic about walking up an incline or a hill as if you are climbing a small mountain, there are also health benefits to walking uphill.
Walking uphill is an easy way to take advantage of the outdoors as the action helps increase intensity without compromising the benefits of walking. In fact, by walking up a hill or steep incline, you will get the equivalent benefit in half the time!
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