Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Everyone knows that exercise is important for good health, but many Americans do not do enough to get this benefit. Most people have good intentions, but there are a variety of reasons why we just don’t get to it.
Not enough time
Not enough energy
Do not want to join a gym
Feel you are too out of shape
Do not even know where to start!
Well there is one exercise that you can start doing right now to address all of these. It is easier than you think, but you may feel that it is not strenuous enough to really count as exercise. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
It is WALKING-sustained walking.
Benefits of daily walking have been found to include:
Manage body weight/obesity
Prevention and control of cardiovascular issues
Maintain bone density
Maintain and improve muscle strength
Help with balance and coordination as we age
Quite a bit of research has been done into how much walking we actually need to do, how often, and how quickly to improve our health . The majority of researchers agree that for increased benefit to our health, we should be:
Walking for 30 to 60 min per session
Walking at a “brisk” pace of 2.5 to 4.0 mph (more on this later)
Now, going back to our reasons of why most of us do not exercise:
Not enough time: Start where you are. Begin walking for a time frame that is comfortable for you. If you cannot quite make the 30 minute mark, no worries. Start walking and slowly build up until you can. If you can walk 30 minutes, then commit to the 30 minutes. Keep in mind, this is the same as watching a sitcom, so it will not take too much time away from life.
Not enough energy: Walking will not require you to expend the energy you would facing a spin class, throwing a kettle bell around, or lifting weights in the gym. Half the battle of exercise is starting. Those of us who struggle to go to the gym, exercise class, or the yoga studio knows that getting into the car can be the biggest hurdle. With walking, you can just put on your shoes and step out your front door.
As you begin to make daily walking a part of your routine, your energy levels will actually go up. This will give you more get up and go to do more as you build up.
Do not want to join a gym: do not need to. No equipment required.
Feel you are too out of shape: Consider the same thing we discussed under the time issue. START WHERE YOU ARE. You do what you can do and build from there. You do not have to be able to make it through an aerobics class, be able to lift a certain weight, or know any special dance moves. You can just start walking to your tolerance and increase as you are able. Remember, every step counts!
Do not know even where to start: now you do-Just. Start. Walking.
Just how fast should you be walking? Stroll? Power stride? Beast mode?
The research shows that a speed of 2.5 to 4.0 mph is recommended to get the health benefits we discussed above. This works out to 220 (2.5 mph) to 352 (4.0 mph) feet per minute.
To know these speeds actually feel like, you can do a quick check.
Measure out roughly 55 feet in your house/yard and time yourself walking this distance. You should be able to cover the 55 feet in 15 seconds. This would be roughly a 2.5 mph walking speed. For a 4.0 mph walking speed, you should be able to walk 88 feet in 15 seconds.
This gives you a rough idea of how quickly you should aim to walk during your sessions to get maximum benefit. Again, if you cannot walk this quickly for whatever reason, walk at your pace. Any walking within your capability is far better for you than no walking at all.
WALKING PROGRAM PLAN
Choose a walking route that is not overly crowded and free of things to stumble over (obviously). Stay on an even, flat surface if just starting out or have balance challenges.
Plan to walk daily at times that work best in your schedule.
Allow yourself 30 minutes to start, working up to 60 minutes progressively, as able. Having said this, do not NOT walk because you feel you will never be able to or have the time to walk 60 minutes. You can still get the benefit from a 30 minute session.
Maintain a comfortable pace aiming for the recommended brisk walk as discussed above.
So, that is it! There is your walking plan. No special equipment, no getting in the car, no making a class at a specific time, no special abilities required!
The best part is that you can start right now improving your health and mobility with the benefit of walking. As you get more and more fit, it just may inspire to try out other options for health and wellness.
Throw on some music and pick a route that brings you into nature, breathing fresh air, and gets the body moving.
Stay Well & Feel Good,
Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.
Hi! I am Dr. Kim MacDonald. I am a physical therapist who specializes in empowering my patients to optimize how they move their bodies and improve their ability to do the things they love regardless of age, experience, or capabilities.
My experience in the health care field allows me to teach the tools you need to ensure that you are working safely to improve your pain and maximize your physical potential.
If you would like to know more about how you can help yourself be healthier and live a more active lifestyle, join me here to check out my blog, courses and services.