Begin With Just One Step
Fitness Friday. Last month in the debut post of this series, I emphasized the importance of integrating fitness routines into your lifestyle for lasting success. Walking is an ideal fitness choice for several reasons. Walking
- Can be done almost anywhere
- Has a low-impact on the body
- Requires no practice
- Requires no equipment (save a good comfortable pair of shoes)
- and it’s FREE
There are also several essential health benefits from lowering your blood pressure to strengthening back muscles and bones. This is great because it extends your mobility and independence as you age. In fact, the original Report of the Surgeon General on Physical Activity and Health (1996) found that the most popular leisure-time physical activities among adults were walking and gardening/yard work. I personally enjoy walking because it fits easily into what I’ve come to call urban aerobics. Fooling myself into getting that heart rate up works better for me than a dedicated work out where I have nothing to do but think, “ok I’m working out now…breath rate…increasing…heart rate…quickening”. With urban aerobics, I walk to the Metro station. Often I’ll choose the next closest metro (rather than the closest). It also includes taking the stairs or walking while on the escalator. Walking to the corner market and the local grocery store are also frequent activities. The key is to keep moving briskly for no less than a 10-minute duration. What I’m describing is consistent with the Surgeon General’s recommendation to accumulate 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week. Enough, that is to reduce your risk for disease and help you lead a longer, healthier life. You may have even heard that walking 10,000 steps in a day (roughly the equivalent of 5 miles) is one such way to achieve this goal.
As an old proverb states, the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step. Taking that step now to initiate and maintain a walking fitness routine can set you on the path toward many of the health benefits discussed earlier. The professionals at the Mayo Clinic have a few recommendations to get your walking routine started.
- Begin gradually by walking only as far or as fast as you find comfortable. Then, over several weeks’ time, you can gradually work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes of walking most days each week.
- Use proper technique by using the correct posture and movements is essential. (Take a minute to study the photo above.)
- Measure the intensity of your workout. As you walk, measure the intensity of your workout by checking your heart rate. Knowing your heart rate allows you to increase the intensity to maximize your workout or slow down to avoid overdoing it.
For even more on fitness and walking, check out The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness on the bookshelf (widget) to the right. As you work walking into your fitness routine, please share with me the ways you’ve discovered to get an urban (or suburban) aerobics workout.
1996 Report of the Surgeon General on Physical Activity and Health at http://www.cdc.gov 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans at http://www.health.gov and Walking for fitness: How to trim your waistline, improve your health at MayoClinic.com