Are you ready to march into March? Or spring into Spring? Whatever the phrase, Spring is nature’s way of saying “Let’s Party!” so to celebrate, let’s get moving! Walking stands out as one of the most popular ways to stay active, and sometimes it’s underrated despite all the health benefits it can provide.
I’m going to share some tips and bust some myths about walking because even though it may be perceived as light or simple, it can really help us both mentally and physically, and there is nothing minor about that. The bottom line is we need to tie those shoes and get out the door!
Walking is effective cardio
Not everyone wants to run. That’s ok! Yet, some think that because it’s not running or sprinting or “heavy” cardio that walking is not as useful. But I’m here to advocate for walking…yes, it may be low impact, but that’s totally ok and actually a good thing; it’s a great way to get your heart rate up, lower the risk for diseases and improve your mood, all while taking it easier on your joints. Think of walking as a gateway into the exercise world. Everyone can start with walking to improve their health, enhance their fitness level and boost their endurance. You don’t have to power walk miles and miles to get physical benefits, either…going for a steady walk can make a world of difference for keeping your body active and healthy. As many physical therapists say, “Motion is lotion” for the body and its joints!
Keep in mind progressive overload
Progressive overload refers to gradually increasing load/weight, frequency or number of repetitions in your strength or exercise regimen. So whenever we start adding more steps or activity into our daily routine, it is important to stretch, foam roll and prepare our bodies for the increase in activity. As you try to incorporate more walking, don’t forget to warm up and cool down so your body can acclimate to the change and you can hopefully avoid nagging aches or pains. For some, their IT band can flare up when they start adding more steps and exercise volume to their days; others can experience knee pain, tight hip flexors or other issues. Just like with anything else, it is possible to overdo it, so be sure to listen to your body and make the time to take good care of it before and after activities.
Baby steps are ok
Getting the universally suggested 10,000 steps or more each day can be daunting to some. After all, that is nearly five miles! So remember that baby steps are ok, and some steps are always better than no steps. Don’t let your fitness trackers or social media influencers overwhelm you; on the days you feel good, get after it! And on the not-so-good days, do what you can. When you are consistent, and just do the best you can, that’s what matters.
If you are looking for a fun challenge and some accountability, maybe find a “Step Challenge” online or at your work. When you are logging your steps and competing against others, it can maybe keep you more excited and motivated to get more steps!
Walking helps with weight management
Never underestimate the power of a walk, no matter how short. Over time, walking can help reduce belly fat and prevent the onset of diseases (or help manage diseases). Even though a walk around the block doesn’t necessarily yield an excessive amount of calories burned, it’s better for us than being sedentary or binge-watching TV shows or movies, right? It’s not always about calories weight at all, but when we engage in a cardiovascular activity such as walking, we are indeed jumpstarting our metabolism and better managing our appetite. Of course, the more we walk and the faster we walk, the more calories are burned, but over time, consistent walking of any kind is a win-win for our body and mind.
Spice things up!
If you’re feeling sassy and want to spice up your walking routine, try incorporating some air squats, lunges, burpees (eek! I said the “b” word!) or another movement along the way. Set a timer and maybe every two minutes do 10 air squats or 5 burpees or 10 jumping jacks or whatever movement you want (it’s the gift of choice! lol). You can sprinkle your walk with spurts of higher-intensity movements if you would like, while allowing for recovery time along the way. Or even mixing up the pace of your walk from brisk to moderate to light and alternating between paces can add some variety to your routine. Finding hills to walk, or adding an incline to a treadmill walk, can also render positive benefits. Have fun with it!
It’s not always about a workout
Let’s not gloss over one of the best parts of walking…the mental benefits! It is ok to allow yourself to just enjoy the movement and not worry about the distance or the speed or the incline or the calories being burned. Walking can alleviate stress and anxiety; when your body feels good, so does your mind. Movement is medicine for our body, mind and soul. The more we move, the more those endorphins pump through our body and make us feel good, and the more we set ourselves up for success and happiness. Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury, and walking fits perfectly into that category!