It’s the fifth month of the year and if you’ve been following along, we are making 2015 our healthiest year yet, one step at a time. Back in January I decided to work on one healthy habit each month rather than make a giant list of resolutions I would abandon by February. So far it is working. Small tweaks over time give you a chance to acquire new habits without being overwhelmed.
You can read find the previous habits here:
January: Drink Your Water
February: Stop Eating After Dinner
March: Eat Your Greens
April: Get Your Sleep
Now that the weather is finally warming up here in Southern Ontario, I thought a walking habit would be appropriate. Last year after my son was born, the first exercise I returned to was walking. I would take him out for hours in the afternoon getting him to nap and getting me some calorie burn. I found it very motivating to have a step tracker and downloaded a free app called Argus onto my phone. My goal was to surpass 10,000 steps a day and sometimes we were clocking 10 kilometers a walk, which was great — it got us outside and helped me lose some baby weight. I choose walking as my primary exercise at this time (3-6 months post-partum) because it was convenient, no-cost, and a good use of my time (with an infant I didn’t have a lot of time to myself for exercise or much of anything).
As a runner and avid exerciser before my baby, I never gave much thought to walking as exercise. I would take my pugs on short jaunts around the neighbourhood every day after work, but I didn’t count it as exercise. But walking is a legit exercise on its own, if not THE best exercise out there. Growing scientific evidence shows that walking – if done fast, far, and frequently – has a wide array of health benefits.
- Helps you maintain a healthy weight and even slows the rate of weight gain as you age
- Keeps your energy high
- three 15 minute walks after each meal are better at regulating your blood sugar than one forty-five minute walk
- Lifts your spirits
- 10 minutes of walking at a brisk pace can boost your mood for two hours
- Strengthens your memory
- a 2011 study on elderly walkers showed growth in their hippocampus by an average of 2% over the course of a year
- Protects you from common diseases and conditions
- prevents or helps you manage conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
- a 2013 study showed daily runners and walkers lowered their blood pressure by at least 4.2% and their risk of heart disease by 4.5%
- it may also decrease your risk of certain cancers. A 2005 study found that patients with colorectal cancer who exercised or walked for 6+ hours a week were 60% less likely to die than sedentary patients
- the American Cancer society found that 1 hour of daily walking may reduce a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer by 14%
Walking is pretty simple, but below are are some things to consider:
- Your head is up. You’re looking forward, not at the ground.
- Your neck, shoulders and back are relaxed, not stiffly upright.
- You’re swinging your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows. A little pumping with your arms is OK.
- Your stomach muscles are slightly tightened and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward.
- You’re walking smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
* Source: The Mayo Clinic
- Shoes with proper arch support, a firm heel, and a thick flexible sole to cushion feet and absorb shock. If you walk when it’s dark, wear something reflective to increase your visibility.
- Like any exercise, you will want to warm-up, cool-down, and stretch at the end.
- Spend the first 5-10 minutes walking at an easy pace before you pick it up.
- Don’t static stretch when muscles are cold. You can do some dynamic stretches before you begin, but save the static stretches until after you are done.
Follow Laura Greenaway Fitness on Facebook to get tips on walking throughout the month of May.