Some of the best things in life are so simple, we often overlook them. Walking is simple, available to almost everyone, and can be done almost anywhere, anytime. There’s no special gear (except good walking shoes) or complicated movement and no costly gym memberships.
The Mayo Clinic recommends 30 minutes of physical activity a day, at least five days a week. If you can’t seem to get 30 minutes in one go, break it up. Maybe have a ten-minute walk during a lunch break, and a 20-minute walk after work.
Regular, brisk walking can help reduce the risk (or manage) several chronic conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Walking is effective for weight loss, too! You’ll be burning lots of calories (depending on your weight, pace and distance), so walking is perfect if you’re looking to shed a few pounds. If you weigh 130 pounds you’ll burn 160 to 180 calories in an hour by walking briskly at a pace of 3 to 4 miles an hour.
Use these top tips to make walking your new go-to for achieving your fitness goals!
1. Set goals that make sense for you.
Have you seen people tapping their activity tracker bracelets, saying “I’ve got to get more steps in!!”? While activity trackers are all the rage, the Holy Grail of 10,000 steps may or may not be right for you, depending on your current fitness level.
Track the steps you already take in a day to get your baseline. The average person gets about 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day—which, if you’re thinking you “have to get” 10,000 steps, it can seem a little daunting.
Instead, set intermediate goals. Maybe you’ll add 1,000 steps a day for the first week, another 1,000 a day the next week and so on, until you’re at 10,000. If you’re already active and get 10,000 steps a day regularly, your new goals will be higher than 10,000.
2. Set yourself up for success.
First, check with your medical provider that you’re good to start a walking program. Then, invest in some supportive walking shoes. For clothing, go for something lose and comfortable—and a sports bar for comfort and support. Take your water bottle with you so you’ll stay hydrated.
Remember that walking is exercise, so give yourself a warm-up period of five to ten minutes of slow walking, and then a few simple stretches once your muscles are warm. At the end of your walk, cool down for five to ten minutes.
3. Listen to your body.
Walking is relatively low impact, but you should watch for signs of over exertion such as pain, lightheadedness, or nausea. Stop if you have any chest pain, shooting pains in your arms or neck, or severe headaches.
Some aches and pains are expected anytime you’re starting a new fitness program, and particularly if you’re not very active day-to-day. Muscle pain is normal; joint pain (knees, ankles, hips) is more concerning and could mean you’re pushing too hard. If a couple days of rest and icing don’t improve your symptoms, check in with your doctor or a physical therapist.
4. Vary your route.
It’s fine to walk around your neighborhood or a local park (or even a treadmill), but to keep boredom at bay, try to mix up your route a couple times a week. Scout out a new park, or hit the mall for an indoor walk. The City of Montclair organizes a Mall Walkers program at the Montclair Place mall every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning from 9 am to 10 am. In Claremont, check out the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park or the Thompson Creek Trail for hiking and walking trails. (A parking permit is required at both locations.)
5. Make walks enjoyable.
One of biggest reasons we fail to reach fitness goals is a lack of consistency. And it’s hard to stick to something that doesn’t have some enjoyment attached to it. So, make your walks fun. Meet up with a friend, make it your time with your spouse, or put together an upbeat playlist to keep you in step. (Try this one from Reebok on Spotify.) Or catch up on your reading by downloading an audio book (just make sure you’re keeping up your pace of 3 to 4 miles an hour.)
6. Stay motivated.
Keep track of your progress. Write down your time and distance—lots of free apps for your phone make this easy!—so you can see your progress and stay inspired. One avid walker takes a daily photo along her route and posts it to Facebook. When she misses a day, her friends and fans inquire—so she stays motivated!
7. Celebrate your success.
Woo hoo!! Once you meet your goals, be they distance, consistency, or weight lost, be sure to celebrate yourself and your commitment.
When setting your goals, give yourself an incentive—something special—and treat yourself. Maybe a pedicure, a cute new strappy athletic top, or one of our Feeling Groovy Wellness services (download our services menu here and call us at 909-480-1711 to make an appointment).
However you choose to recognize and celebrate your wins, the important thing is that you take time to do it, and not brush past your accomplishment. It’s a big deal to reach your fitness goals!