How to Incorporate Walking into Your Daily Life
Why You Should Bother
You might not have time for any structured exercise, but that doesn't take away the fact that sedentary folk are at an increased risk of high cholesterol, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and lower back pain. Walking in comparison to dealing with those problems is a cinch and is considered to be the simplest way to work out. Three lacklustre hours in the gym each week won't do much for fat-burning anyway, whereas proper walking is exercise every time you need to get somewhere - like the toilet or the kettle. The faster you walk and the further you go, the greater the rewards. It really is that simple.
Benefits of walking
There are multiple benefits that you can experience as a result of committing some of you time to walking as a method of exercise. These can include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Strengthen your muscles and bones
- Improve your mood
- Enhance your balance and flexibility
- Lowers the risk of disease
- Prevents dementia
- Improves your energy levels
- Boosts vitamin D
- Tones your legs, glutes and abs
- Strengthens your heart
"Walking is the main form of exercise for 8.5 million people in Britain, but 8.5 million people are not doing it properly, so they aren't seeing the benefits." Joanna Hall, creator of the Walkactive programme
But It's So Boring
If you find it boring, stock up your iPod with some music you can stride out too, but make sure you don't wear this at night or in isolated spots for safety reasons. You could try to find some like-minded friends to step out with, or even join the Ramblers Association. Walking through the countryside is much more interesting than pounding a grey pavement, and offers hills to offer more of a leg workout.
How To Walk Well
Pedometers count the amount of steps you take. They are a cheap and effective method to count up your activity levels.
The NHS suggests people aim for 10,000 steps a day but says the average person only does 3,000-4,000. Because a good deal of the population achieves much less than the recommended amount you may wonder how to find more stepping time. It will take some effort, and old routines may need to change, but this is your health and nothing is more important.
What are the options?
You can up your total by:
- Walking the school run, rain won't hurt you, or park further away and walk half
- Got a dog? Spend ten minutes more a day walking Rover
- Park further away from work
- Walk the stairs - that old chestnut but it makes a difference
- Walk into town to buy your lunch
- Take your lunch break and power round the nearest park - no eating at your desk
- Taking the scenic route when walking into town
- Taking up gardening and cleaning around the house regularly
Another option involves walking to work. Committing your time to walking to work, rather than driving, ensures that you can completely avoid any pesky traffic jams during your commute. Of course, for many distance is an issue, but by including just a portion of walking in your journey it can indeed make a difference. This can mean using public transport such as a bus, tube or train, which would involve walking between stations / bus stops. Also, according to the charity Sustrans when discussing more people walking to work in London "If we all swapped one weekly drive for walking traffic would reduce by at least 10%". This proves that if more people in London were to walk to work it would positively impact people across the city and could improve travel times for everyone on their way to work.
Posture and technique will make a big difference to the time you spend walking. Strolling along with slumped shoulders won't help much. Instead, power yourself around all day using the muscles in your bottom, stomach and thighs. This type of walking brings fast, noticeable results to your body.
Try These Techniques:
- Strike out with your heel and push off with your toe
- Keep your hips tucked beneath your body
- Bend your arms at 90 degrees and swing them
- Pull your shoulders back and head up to look into the distance. This will also help counteract all that screen-gazing time.
- Walk so you get a little out of breath and push yourself faster as your fitness levels improve.
Fast walking with great posture will burn off calories, tighten muscles and energise. Plus it's free, you don't need a sports bra, and you get to meet all the other fit and healthy walkers. Appropriate footwear can be helpful to ensure that your arches have an appropriate amount of support. Warming up before a long walk and cooling down afterwards is also essential to help your muscles. The last thing you want is a nasty cramp after a walk.
In order to stick with a walking regime long term it is important that you change up your routine by planning several different routes in order to keep things fresh. You should also begin with simple and attainable goals before building yourself up for tougher goals. You could also make walking more enjoyable. It is also important to not get disheartened if you miss a day of walking and to get back on the wagon before you fall off for good. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to keep on track.
So, the next time you are outside, try a bit of 'proper-walking' you'll be surprised at how good you feel.