There is no shortage of exercise trends out there today and some of them can be quite complicated or require expensive equipment. And, of course, there's value in all of those things. The goal of exercise is to get your body moving, and ideally, enjoy it. But, when people ask about starting an exercise program, it is important to not overlook the health benefits of one of the most obvious forms of exercise: walking.
CNN posted an article this week about the health benefits of walking. A few things of note in the article:
- Fitness trackers are a helpful indication of steps and calories burned, but they are often inaccurate. Many times, people burn more calories than the tracker estimates. Still, a tracker can be beneficial to give you a general idea of your steps, heart rate, and calories burned. This can help you to set goals and be more active.
- Increasing your heart rate a moderate amount is the goal. A heart rate monitor or fitness tracker can help you determine what heart rate zones you are aiming for in a workout. Interval training, where you alternate pushing a little harder for a short time and going a little easier for a short time, is good for a metabolic boost and help improve your endurance and speed. In the beginning, you want to alternate between levels of exertion where it's easy to carry on a conversation and where's it's more difficult to carry on a conversation.
- Don't forget to pay attention to your form. Many people develop bad habits in our form and posture over the years. If you have questions, experience pain, or need help making a sustainable plan, please speak to your doctor about your goals.
According to research from Harvard, "Walking for 2.5 hours a week—that’s just 21 minutes a day—can cut your risk of heart disease by 30%. In addition, this do-anywhere, no-equipment-required activity has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and keep you mentally sharp." Research has also shown that a little movement every hour is more beneficial than sitting at a desk all day and then only getting movement during a workout. (That's why fitness trackers include hourly movement goals or stand goals).
In addition to physical benefits, walking can provide mental health benefits as well. Walking outside in nature can be very calming and provide some clarity of mind. Please remember to practice safe behaviors when walking outside. Wear light colored clothes if it's dark, so that you are visible, ensure your headphones are not too loud that you can't hear your surroundings, and make sure to bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.