With the intense summer heat hitting us the last couple of weeks, it has been an easy transition into a more sedentary routine as any physical exertion seems ludicrous in this heat. If your normal exercise routine has been disrupted or you are looking to get more active this summer, consider adding walking to your daily routine. With the addition of walking, you can build endurance that can help advance you towards more intense physical activity and fitness goals. Walking daily also promotes many health benefits that can influence long term health and wellness.
The implications of the health benefits associated with daily walking include cardiovascular and cognitive health, as well as improving functional fitness. It has been suggested that walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk of heart disease and improve blood pressure. If these health benefits weren’t enough, walking 30 minutes daily also impacts cognitive and mental health. Daily walking can improve attentiveness, lessen the effects of depression and anxiety, as well as reduce the common feeling of fatigue. The implementation of daily walking can also increase memory and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Along with the profound health benefits of walking, this activity propels individuals towards a more fit lifestyle.
Walking 30 minutes daily improves overall fitness, and can be a catalyst for more intense exercise and activity. Walking daily positively influences weight loss and weight management as it burns calories and encourages other healthy behavior, such as eating habits and water consumption. Walking also influences overall strength; it is a full body exercise! While walking, the heart is at work to pump blood throughout the body. Arm and shoulder muscles are engaged, back muscles are at work (be aware of your posture!) and the legs are kicking it into high gear, as the quads, hamstrings, calves and hips are all engaged in this activity. Strengthening, as a result of walking, can reduce lower back pain, improve joint mobility and improve bone health.
If these factors have convinced you to implement walking into your daily life, you may be asking yourself, ”Where do I start?” If 30 minutes of brisk walking is daunting, working your way up to this goal is a healthy decision. Start at 10 to 15 minutes a night, and bump up the time by 5 minutes each week. Once you reach a total of 30 minutes, and can complete this time easily, challenge yourself to further increase the time or step up the intensity a bit by walking faster. If incorporating running into your fitness regimen has been a goal of yours, this is a great time to start working towards achieving that goal! As you work up to more intense walking, incorporate light jogging intervals to your time out and about. Weekly, increase the length of your jogging intervals and the speed at which you are jogging. In time, your jogging intervals will flow into a constant jog and as you increase speed at a comfortable rate you will reach your goal of running. With most anything in the realm of exercise, progression is a safe way to reach your goals and reduce the chance of injury.
Finally, transitioning to an active lifestyle can be a bit of a shock to our bodies. Incorporating stretching before and after activity is key. Stretching can prevent injuries and relieve some muscle soreness as you are challenging yourself and building muscle. Finally, with the heat and the increase in activity, make sure you drink plenty of water to fend off dehydration and to stay healthy.
As the temperature drops in the evenings challenge yourself to get outside and walk! There are few things more motivating and awe-inspiring than viewing a beautiful Oregon sunset; chase after it!