Walk Your Way to Better Health

Did you know that walking is one of the best exercises that anyone can do to help improve their fitness level and overall health? Walking does not require a gym membership or an investment in expensive exercise equipment. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes and you are ready to start improving your health. And best of all, persons of all ages can enjoy the health benefits of walking.

Walking at a brisk pace will help to elevate your heart rate (which means you are exercising your heart muscle) while also burning calories. A normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute so we want to walk at a pace that gets our heart beating at a somewhat faster rate for a period of at least 15 minutes per walk. The target is to have a heart rate of 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Your MHR (roughly calculated as 220 minus your age) is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity.

To get the maximum benefits of walking, it is a good idea to consider keeping track of how much walking you do as a way of measuring how much physical activity you are getting on a daily basis. The more steps you take in a day, the more calories you will burn.

To track your steps, a variety of technology is available today. But you do not need high dollar technology to count your steps. Instead invest in a step counter i.e. a pedometer. A pedometer is simply a small device that when attached in the waist area, counts the number of steps you take.

All pedometers count steps, but there are different types. Simple pedometers just count your steps. Some digital ones track your steps and also tell you how far you’ve walked in miles. Some even tell you how many calories you have burned. Keep in mind that the mile and calorie readings are estimates and will not be completely accurate. Nevertheless, knowing how many steps you are walking each day can be a great aid in helping you establish, achieve and maintain your personal fitness goals.

You can purchase a pedometer at many sporting goods stores, drug stores and variety stores like Target. Some are digital and have lots of bells and whistles but the main thing to focus on is purchasing a reliable unit that will accurately count your steps. You should be able to purchase a quality unit for under $25.00.

Before you use your pedometer, be certain that your pedometer is secure on your waistband or belt. Usually a pedometer needs to be worn upright to work well. If it is tilted, or if it does not fit snugly on your body, the results may not be accurate.

Try wearing the pedometer in different places on your waist to find where it gives you the most accurate step count. It may be most accurate if you wear it on your side above your hip or directly above your knee. Test your pedometer by walking 30 to 40 steps. If it is off by more than two or three steps, move it to a different place on your waist and try again. If you have the type of pedometer that converts the number of steps into distance, you will have to set your step length by following the instructions that come with the unit.

To make best use of a pedometer, get in the habit of wearing it every day. Put it on first thing in the morning and leave it on until you go to bed. As you begin to wear the pedometer, go about your usual routine for the first week and don’t change how active you are yet. Chart your total steps each day to establish a baseline of how active you are.

Starting on the second week, set a goal for the week. At first, try to add 200 to 400 steps peer day with the ultimate goal of adding about 2,000 more steps a day. Achieving this goal means that you have added about one mile of walking per day to your routine. Repeat this process weekly or bi-weekly so that you build your total number of daily steps.

As you build up the number of daily steps, think about all the ways that you can add steps to your daily routine. Park farther than usual from your workplace or the shopping mall and walk the extra distance. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Walk a lap inside the grocery store before you start shopping.

Continue charting your progress in writing each day by recording your results in a notebook. This will serve as continuing motivation about the progress you are making and help keep you on track.

And finally, keep looking for ways to keep moving. Set new goals as your fitness level improves. Health experts say that walking at least 10,000 steps (that almost five miles) each day is a great fitness goal that if achieved, will pay significant positive health dividends for most people.

Walking is truly a great way to get and stay fit. I have a friend in his early 60’s that has lost over 40 pounds in the past year (and by the way is keeping it off as well) simply by walking and making a few relatively minor adjustments to his eating habits. He likes to point out that he has never been on a diet because all he has done is just cut back on portions at mealtime while reducing his consumption of sweets like cake, pie and ice cream. He has also lowered his blood pressure to normal levels and says he feels better than he has in 25 years. He continues to walk about five hours a week to maintain his improved level of fitness.

So get yourself motivated and put on a comfortable pair of walking shows. Very soon you will begin to see and experience firsthand the many health benefits of walking.

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