Written by Jennifer Stawarz, MSPT
This summer, you might be thinking about how to get yourself more physically fit and are ready to start moving. Walking for exercise has some incredible benefits and when you make it a part of your daily routine, you can create a healthy habit that is not only free in the nice weather, but you may notice other perks other than just weight loss.
Walking is a weight bearing exercise, important to note for the older populations who are conscious of maintaining bone density. While swimming and bicycling are easier on the joints, walking is the best form of weight bearing activity that will improve the condition of your bones as you age. If you’re walking regularly, you will also get the benefit of increased cardiovascular and pulmonary health and improved management of hypertension, cholesterol and joint stiffness/pain. As you walk, you will strengthen your leg muscles therefore improving balance and muscle endurance for other activities. And, of course, you can reduce your percentage of body fat by increasing your metabolism and burning off extra calories.
To see these health benefits it’s recommended that you do a minimum of 30 minutes per day at a brisk pace, meaning you can still talk but at a higher pace than strolling. If you cannot do the full 30 minutes initially if you are just starting, you can still get all of these benefits from completing three 10 minute sessions per day and building up as your endurance improves.
iWatch or FitBit are great tools to measure how much (or little) you’re walking daily and for having a goal to hit each day. You can enter friendly competitions with family or coworkers to reach your step goals and push yourself more than you would alone.
In order to make it part of your routine, it’s recommended to walk at the same time each day to create the habit. Keeping an activity diary or logging each walk can make you feel accomplished as you track your progress and number of days in a row that you were active.
As your body gets used to the regular walks, you can increase the intensity by walking faster or taking some hills, walking with hand weights or increasing the distance walked each day. To make it fun, walk your dog, talk on the phone with a friend while you walk, pick different routes to avoid getting bored, go with a friend, take your children on a bike ride while you walk, use music or walking meditations to improve your mood!
If you have any ailments that are preventing you from starting on a walking program, our physical therapists are happy to help assist you in recovery so that you can make this your most active summer yet!