Why not walk two blocks to the store? Why take the elevator to the second floor? Why not include a walk during your work break?
Millions, if not tens of millions, of Americans rarely if ever take the above advice. Many of the same people then complain that they keep dieting, but just can’t lose weight. They also complain that they’re often too tired to exercise, go out with friends, or in general do the things that they really want to do.
Yes, it’s true that too many of us have busy lives, but there’s a solution to our problems that’s as simple as walking. The solution, in fact, IS walking. If you want to be a healthier, fitter, slimmer, more mentally alert, less fatigued person, you should incorporate walking into your life on an everyday basis.
The scientific evidence about the benefits of walking are overwhelming. Simply put, walking regularly reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by about 35 percent, reduces your risk of a premature death by about 22 percent, and reduces your weight by about one pound per year during your approximately 20 middle-aged years, according to Harvard Health Publications “Walking: Your steps to health” report.
To many people, “walking regularly” constitutes formal exercise. You leave your home at 6 p.m., walk a mile or two, turn around, and walk home. You can become a healthier person doing this routine 30 to 60 minutes three to five days per week other things being equal, but the benefits of these exercises are at least partly negated if you are sedentary for the 23-plus hours daily you are not formally exercising.
A better option might be not being sedentary for most of the day. An even better option might be to participate in a formal exercise program AND incorporate walking into your daily life. Here are some tips to incorporate walking into your daily life.
How to Incorporate Walking into Your Life
- Park ASAP: Have you ever been a passenger in a car driven by a friend who insists on driving around and around and around until he finds a parking space on the street that is as close as possible to his destination? I have. My friend spent 10 minutes looking for a spot when he could have parked three blocks away from the stadium and walked for five minutes. When you’re in a parking lot, you should park a few dozen yards away from the store you’re going to. The extra walking adds up — and you’ll feel younger and healthier walking the extra distance.
- Walk To The Store: If the store is less than a mile away, you should consider walking to it. Seriously, aren’t you embarrassed when you drive around the corner to buy one bag of groceries? Stop being embarrassed! Walking is way…….more pleasant. You might bump into a neighbor and have an interesting conversation. You might feel so energetic after your walk that whatever time you lost walking you’ll gain back by being more productive afterward. Besides, relying less on your car will reduce your gas and maintenance expenses.
- Improve Your Friendships: You can go into the lunch room at work and talk to the numerous other people eating during their lunch break. Or you can ask a colleague to take a 30-minute walk with you. That walk can be a bonding experience. A one-on-one conversation away from the pressures of the office can be an important part of your workday.
- Improve Your Productivity: Sitting is very unhealthy for you. Instead of sitting during a work break, you should walk. I’m not just talking about your 30- to 60-minute lunch break. I’m explicitly recommending taking a five-minute walk once an hour. It’s amazing how often a five-minute walk will spur you mentally. You’re fatigued working. Five minutes later, you’re refreshed. This often means that you will be able to work more efficiently and productively after your walk. In fact, the five-minute walk can reduce your time at work by far more than five minutes.
- Take Different Routes: Whether you’re walking from home or the office, you might find that your life becomes more interesting if you walk down different streets each day. You might walk by an interesting store you didn’t know existed or notice interesting things about the neighborhood that could enrich your conversations. In fact, the very first recommendation in The Boston Globe article “14 ways to make walking a part of your daily routine” is “Make it interesting. Explore new parts of the city.”
- Variety Is The Spice Of Life: Walking can be boring, but it doesn’t have to be. What if you walked to the store with a friend one day, your spouse the next, your children the next. This article reports that the textbook “An Invitation to Health has concluded that exercising with your children “can improve parent-child relationships and improve your children’s mood and academic performance.” You can also spice up your walks by listening to different kinds of music each time, changing the pace of your walks each time, and walking with weights.
Finally, whenever possible take the stairs rather than waiting for the elevator. According to this article, walking up and down the stairs burns 102 calories every 10 minutes, strengthens your leg and arm muscles, and improves your endurance. Enjoy!