May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Started by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in 1983, this advocacy month is aimed at encouraging Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles. Physical fitness is generally achieved through proper nutrition, moderate-vigorous physical exercise, and sufficient rest as part of a healthy recovery plan.
Walking is perfect for both beginners and seasoned fitness fans alike.
Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, wrote, “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” Likewise, the journey to a healthier you can begin by adding a few more steps to your day.
How many steps a day?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, or roughly 1.5 to 2 miles. It’s a good idea to find out how many steps a day you walk now, as your own baseline. Then you can work up toward the goal of 10,000 steps by aiming to add 1,000 extra steps a day every two weeks. (Reick, 2020)
Calculate Your Brisk Walk
Brisk walking can decrease the risk of many causes of mortality when compared to slow walking. To determine your brisk walking speed, see how many steps you take in one minute. You’re hitting brisk speed when you’re walking more than 100 steps per minute. Once you get a sense of how that feels, it will be easier to maintain that rate on your walks!
BENEFITS OF WALKING (Harvard Health, 2021)
Many of us are aware that walking for regular activity can help reduce your risk of common health problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression.
But if that’s not enough to get you moving, here’s a few surprising benefits of walking:
- It counteracts the effect of weight promoting genes. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity promoting genes in over 12,000 people to find out how much these genes contributed to body weight. They found the effects of those genes were cut in half for those who walked briskly just 30 minutes a day!
- It helps tame a sweet tooth. A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can reduce cravings for chocolate, and even decrease the amount of chocolate eaten in stressful circumstances. The latest research confirms that walking can lower cravings, including the overall amount in a number of sugary snacks.
- It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Research has already shown that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society ran a study focusing on women who walked seven hours or more in a week and found they had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week.
- It eases joint pain Walking has been shown to not only reduce arthritis related pain but is effective as part of a preventative care plan. Walking five to six miles per week may prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints, especially the knees and the hips through lubrication, and strengthens the muscles that support them.
- It boosts immune function. Walking can help protect you during the cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day at least five days a week had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercise once a week or less. If they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.
YOUR CHECK LIST
Get good shoes: Proper fitting shoes with a sturdy heel and comfortable insoles are critical for protecting your feet, legs, and back from injury.
Dress Smart: Wear comfy, loose-fitting clothes (but not too loose or they’ll chafe) made of breathable materials; allowing perspiration to escape. At night, be sure to wear bright colors or reflective tape so motorists can see you.
Warm up: Walk slowly for three to five minutes to warm up your muscles before revving up to a faster pace.
Don’t overdo it: Build up to it! Until you are a seasoned walker, plan a shorter route, and complete it twice if you want more exercise.
Stay hydrated: Carry a water bottle or wear a hydration pack to keep the fluids flowing.
Cool down: As with other exercises slow down gradually to reduce heart and muscle stress. Build 5 minutes of slow strolling after a faster paced walk.
Grab a buddy: Some people like the peace and inner contemplation while walking solo; others get bored. If companionship motivates you, invite someone along, and keep up a steady pace while chatting!
Written by Martha Hagmaier.
Currently serving with BaySport as the Wellness Program Manager for the IBEW Sound and Communications, 617, and 595 since September 2021.
Prior to this role I created and had global oversight of the WellbEAing initiative at Electronic Arts (EA) for over 6 years.
I have a BS in Human Services, with multiple certifications including Corporate Wellness, Mental Health First Aid, Behavioral Coaching and Personal Training. My diverse career includes the biotech and video gaming industries with roles in Sales, Health and Safety, Workplaces and Human Resources to name a few.
I’m committed to creating healthy, engaging (read: FUN!) experiences using a holistic approach because I believe being our best selves IS possible, increasing our sense of self and getting the most out of life!