We all know that being physically active is important for our health, and getting regular exercise is especially important for healthy aging. It not only helps us maintain strength and endurance to perform basic daily activities like grocery shopping and cleaning the house, but it also helps us continue to enjoy a happy and active lifestyle as we age.
Yet so many of us spend most of the day sitting at the computer, in front of the TV or behind the steering wheel of a car. Too much sitting causes a host of problems, including an increased risk of chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia. Being a couch potato can also increase back and joint pain and cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a deadly blood clot in your leg. Scary, right?
Benefits of Walking
Walking is not only a simple and effective way to improve and maintain your overall health, it may also help you avoid chronic conditions that can affect your quality of life. It’s also one of the most accessible forms of aerobic exercise there is. Other than a good pair of sneakers, it’s free, low impact, easy to do and can be done indoors or outdoors.
A simple walk has a multitude of health benefits. By taking a daily walk you can:
- Prevent diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and Type 2 Diabetes
- Support your immune system to guard against colds and flu
- Reduce joint and back pain
- Strengthen bones and muscles
- Improve balance and coordination
- Improve sleep
- Aid with digestion
- Reduce stress
- Improve mood, cognition and memory
- Help you lose fat and maintain a healthy weight
Recommended Steps Per Day
So just how much should you walk each day for maximum benefits? Health experts recommend 10,000 steps a day. The easiest way to track your steps is with a pedometer, fitness tracker device on your phone, or a piece of bluetooth technology that tracks your exercise. Trackers are available at a range of price ranges designed to fit any budget.
If you’re not into gadgets, you can estimate your steps. The average person takes 2,000 steps to complete one mile. Depending on your age and fitness level, it can take between 13 and 20 minutes to walk a mile.
10,000 steps sound like a lot, but you don’t have to do it all at once. You can break it up into several 10 or 15-minute walks.
You also don’t have to get all your steps in from taking a walk. There are lots of things you can do throughout the day to increase your step count.
Ways to Add More Steps in Every Day
Whether you’re at home, at work, running errands or enjoying some time off, it’s easy to get a few extra steps in. Here are just a few ways:
Out and About
- Don’t let the weather stop you. If it’s raining, too cold or too hot outside, walk the shopping mall. Many shopping malls have maps outlining a route and the mileage. Some even have a coat check.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get a heart-pumping cardio burst by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Park farther away from the door. Instead of circling the parking lot until you get the space closest to the door, part farther away to get extra steps in.
- Stay hydrated. The more water you drink, the more trips you’ll make (and more steps you’ll take) to the bathroom.
- Vary your routine so you don’t get bored. Start your walk in the opposite direction for a different view. Try varying your speed. You can alternate between walking fast for one minute and then slowing down to a normal pace for three minutes.
- Take a morning walk. A brisk walk helps wake you up in the morning and get you to sleep at night by setting your circadian rhythm, which is responsible for your sleep/wake cycle. Walking first thing in the morning also ensures you get some physical activity no matter what the day brings.
- Take an evening walk. A walk after dinner can aid in digestion and is a great way to spend time with family or catch up with your friends and neighbors.
- Watch and walk. When you’re watching TV, get up and walk around during the commercial breaks.
- Ditch the remote: Keep the remote next to the TV so you have to get up to change the channel.
- Dust off that treadmill. Instead of using it as a towel rack (we’ve all done it), move the treadmill in front of the TV and walk while watching your favorite show.
- Walk the dog. Fido needs some exercise too! Walking the dog gets you moving and also makes your dog very happy.
- Get your chores done. Walking isn’t the only way to get your steps in. Mowing the lawn, gardening, vacuuming and straightening up around the house can all increase your step count.
- Set a reminder to get up. Sometimes we get so involved in our work, we end up sitting for hours. Set an alarm to remind yourself to get up and walk every 60 minutes.
- Take the stairs. Whenever possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Take a walk at lunch. Go for a brisk walk at lunch or start a walking club to get each other motivated.
- Visit another floor. Get some extra steps in by using the bathroom or breakroom farthest away from you or on a different floor. You’ll get to visit with some co-workers you don’t normally see and get a little exercise to boot.
- Get off early. If you take public transportation, get off one stop earlier to get in some added steps.
- Walking meetings. Instead of sitting in a stuffy conference room, ask your colleagues to join you for a walking meeting. You can use your phone to record notes.
- Stand up when you’re on the phone. Add steps by pacing or walking in place when you’re on the phone.
- Don’t send the email. Instead of sending an email to ask a simple question, take a walk to your colleague’s desk and ask the question in person.
- Park centrally. If you have several stops to make, park centrally and walk to all the locations.
- Make the extra trips. Instead of lugging four grocery bags in at a time, grab two and make the extra trips.
- Catch up with friends. If you’re meeting up with friends for dinner or coffee, ask if they’d like to go for a walk before or after.
- Be a tourist in your own town. Visit the local parks and trails for a walk or take a walking tour of a nearby city.
- Dance! Nothing gets your heart rate up and steps in like dancing. Bust a move by yourself or have a dance party with your kids.
There are so many ways to increase your daily steps. Get creative and have fun. Happy trails!
Join HCI to Become a Certified Coach
If you’re interested in learning more about the principles of health and nutrition, consider joining the Health Coach Institute for one of our popular coaching programs. You can Become a Health Coach or Nutrition Coach through our accredited six-month online program, where you’ll receive the skills and foundation you need to transform your health and the health of others. If you’re already a coach, take your skills even further by enrolling in the Coach Mastery program, a 12-month business building course focused on sales, marketing and advanced coaching techniques. Feel free to get in touch with one of our clarity coaches directly by calling 1-800-303-2399.