Silver steps are just as important as your first step

Diana Fleming, PhD, LDN, DipACLM and Amy Hanus, BS, ACSM-EP®
For The Ardmoreite

Remember watching a child learn to take their first step?

Taking that first step is just as important as every step taken throughout life, and the more you take, the more you benefit!

What’s really cool — even the smallest amount of physical activity benefits our health.

What is the best physical activity you can do to improve or maintain your health? The answer is simple — the kind you enjoy doing. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it long term. If you haven’t discovered physical activities you love doing, consider walking.

Walking provides an easy, simple and safe way to exercise. No special equipment, clothing or skill is needed. It can be done indoors and out. Solo or with family or friends. And it’s free, unless you don’t happen to own a good pair of walking shoes, in which case, the good news is a good pair won’t break the bank.

Make it brisk!

Briskly walking (moderate intensity) has been shown to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure as much as running (vigorous intensity), going the same distance. Furthermore, the farther people walked and the more calories they burned, the greater the reduction in risk.

A brisk walking pace is generally considered to be 100 steps per minute or 3 to 3.5 miles per hour. Since it takes longer to walk a mile than to run it, more time will be spent walking to get the same benefits as you would running.

If you’re not quite at that pace yet, that’s okay. Start where you are. You’ll still gain many health benefits.

How much should I do?

Any amount of walking is a good place to start.

But in order to optimize your health, aim for at least 150 minutes (2 hrs, 30mins) of moderate intensity physical activity every week.

The key is to make it work for your schedule. Here are a few ideas on how you can break up the time:

● Make time for a daily 20-minute walk before lunch while listening to your favorite songs.

● Take two daily 10-minute walks around the block or down to your mailbox with the dog.

● Visit the local park 5 days a week for a 30-minute walk with a friend. (Time in nature and with a buddy have wonderful benefits on our mental health.)

● Take a 45-60 minute morning or evening walk 3 days a week in your neighborhood.

It’s really up to you on what you do. Find ways to enjoy it. Make it a priority. You and your health are worth it!

6 Walking Tips

Our friends at Harvard have suggested these tips for proper walking form so you can get the most benefit out of the time you spend walking:

1. Stand tall as you walk.

2. Keep your eyes up, looking ahead of you, instead of down at your feet.

3. Keep your shoulders back, down and relaxed.

4. Swing your arms from your shoulders, not your elbows.

5. Maintain a neutral pelvis. In other words, don’t over arch your back or stick out your belly.

6. Step lightly, rolling from heel to toe with each step.

Exercise doesn’t need to be difficult, it should just be doable for you. Keep it up or start today!

References

● https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf

● https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/perfecting-your-walking-technique

Ardmore Institute of Health

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