Spring has sprung!
How many of you made getting healthier this year your New Year’s resolution? I know that my husband and I both decided to make this year a year of healthy change. We both decided that we were going to start eating healthier and walking each day. We are lucky to have beautiful nature trails that go all over our community, which makes for great walks, especially with our fur babies.
However you look at it, though, walking is definitely good for the heart and soul, and March 30th is National Take a Walk in a Park Day. So get out and take a walk. If you are not walking each day, make March 30th the first day of walking every day.
Walk for Good Health
We have all heard the health benefits of walking each day, but walking in and of itself is not all there is to it. When you go for a walk, you want to try to walk for the purpose of walking. Yes, parking your car at the store further from the entrance will add steps to your daily routine, but that is not what is meant by walking for good health.
Walking for good health means walking so many steps in a period of time with the purpose of increasing our heart rate. By increasing our heart rate while walking a specified distance for a specified amount of time we are walking for good health.
Most people try to obtain 10,000 steps a day. With today’s technology, this is easy to measure. Whether it is on your smartphone or smartwatch, you can easily track your steps. Many people even invest in a Fitbit, which measures more than just your steps. A Fitbit will measure your steps, heart rate, and calories burned. However, unlike your phone or watch, the Fitbit often requires a monthly subscription.
When you are walking to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and you get your heart rate up, you are burning more calories than just walking through the grocery store. Walking a mile in 3o minutes, for instance, will help to not only burn those calories but will help with weight loss, too.
Now I know a lot of people who say, “I wish that I could lose just 5 more pounds!” Well, here is the good news, going for a walk each day in addition to eating a healthy diet will help. 30-minutes of vigorous activity a day is all you need.
Not only will walking help with maintaining good body weight, as well as help drop unwanted body fat, but it will help strengthen muscles and bones and improve cardiovascular fitness. When not walking with my dogs, I often choose to walk carrying lightweight dumbbells or handheld walking weights. I have even seen people walking wearing ankle weights to help burn the calories.
Maybe you are someone who wants to start a healthier lifestyle, but you don’t know how to start. Yes, starting in the kitchen is the first step. Eat a healthy and nutritious diet. As one of my fitness friends has always said, “You can’t work off a bad diet.” It is true, 80% of what you do when living healthy is in the kitchen.
The next step to starting your healthy lifestyle is to get out and walk. That’s really it! It’s true! Just walk! Walking often leads to jogging and other fitness routines. For instance, in addition to walking, I have started doing Yoga 3 to 4 days a week.
The faster, farther, and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits. For example, you may start out as an average walker, and then work your way up to walking faster and walking a mile in a shorter amount of time than an average walker, similar to power walkers. This can be a great way to get aerobic activity, improve your heart health and increase your endurance while burning calories. (Mayo Clinic)
Don’t think you have the motivation? Do you have a dog? Or a cat? Or even a bunny? Take them for a walk with you. Dogs need good long walks, too. They even have leashes for cats. However, if your cat is stubborn and does not want to go for a walk with you, then get a pet stroller. I know that it sounds funny, but I have one for my bunny Blue. When we go for a family walk, I have my Yorkie, Levi, my husband walks his Chawheenie, Leia, and my daughter pushes Blue in the stroller.
Another great health benefit to walking is that it helps with mental health, depression, and stress. Don’t you feel better on a beautiful sunny day? How often do you sit in your office and think, “Man, it is beautiful outside! I wish that I wasn’t stuck in this office all day.” Need a break from the humdrum office routine? Step away from your desk at lunch and go for a walk. Get outside and forget about work for a while. It’s beautiful out, and the sun and fresh air will do your body good.
Posture Makes Difference
When you are walking, consider your body posture. Believe it or not, this will make a difference, turning a normal walk into a healthy walk. First, keep your head up. Don’t look at the ground. Look straight ahead. Watch a power walker, their head is always up looking forward. Second, keep your shoulders back and relaxed, not tense. Third, pump with your arms swinging them loosely with each stride. Keep your stomach muscles slightly tightened and your back straight – no arched backs. Walk with a smooth stride rolling your foot from heel to toe.
Before you start walking, make sure you stretch a little and loosen up. Start your walk at a casual pace to get the blood flowing. Eventually, you will want to increase your pace. As you are coming to the end of your walk, slow down to that same casual pace you started with in order to let your body and muscles cool down. Depending on how far or how long you are walking, you can set either a distance or time limit for your warm-up and cool-down periods. Some people like to warm up and cool down for either a quarter-mile or 10 minutes.
Use the Proper Gear
You definitely want to wear the right shoes when walking. Shoes with proper arch support and cushioning to absorb shock make a world of difference. When buying your shoes, go to the store, I don’t recommend buying them online unless you are replacing the shoes you already wear for walking. Try them on, make sure they fit and are comfortable. Walk around the store for several minutes to make sure they are a good fit. There is nothing worse than buying a pair of walking shoes, getting home, and realizing that they are not comfortable. Also, consider shoes that breathe, especially in warmer climates.
Wear comfortable loose-fitting clothing. I like to wear moisture-wicking shirts when walking. Moisture-wicking shirts tend to breathe and absorb sweat making me feel more comfortable.
To track your distance and keep track of the time, wear a smartwatch or Fitbit. Again, these track steps, distance, heart rate, and calories burned. So they are a great addition to your walking gear. They will also keep you motivated to increase your distance walked. Challenge yourself to increase the distance a little bit each day. Even if only by 1,000 extra steps.
Know Your Path
It is always helpful to walk the same path or trail if you have one available, or the same route through your neighborhood or community. This way you will be able to remember landmarks to track your progress. You will also feel more comfortable as you don’t necessarily need to pay attention to all the minor details around you. Of course, it is vital that you are always aware of your surroundings.
It is also a good idea to have a walking partner, whether it is your spouse, best friend, or your dog. This way you will feel safer and will be safer when walking on trails, especially if walking in the early morning or later in the day.
Choose a route that is relatively flat and smooth. Avoid potholes and uneven turf or sidewalks. Pay attention to obstacles and low-hanging tree limbs.
Some people like to walk in their local mall, especially in the cold winter months and on rainy days. When I worked in the mall in college, I would often see the mall walkers when the mall would first open in the morning or one hour before closing.
I am sure that once you start to feel and notice the benefits of walking, your mood will improve and you will become motivated to continue walking and maintaining that healthy lifestyle.
Motivation is everything! Make walking fun. Find a walking partner or two. Take your fur baby with you. Find a beautiful park to walk through. Bring your phone, put in your earbuds, and listen to good music, a podcast, or even an audiobook. Enjoy the peace that walking brings.
You may be more energized by groups of people, so find a walking group. Check out Meetup.com or Facebook for walking groups in your area.
Variety may be your spice of life, so don’t always walk the same areas. Change it up. Change can be good. Find different parks or trails to walk. Use the local shopping centers or malls in inclement weather or colder months.
There are also many resources online for different local, state, and national parks where you can go for a good hike. Just make sure to dress right for the area and bring plenty of water. For those of you who like to hike, which I know we do, I recommend using a good day pack to carry everything you will need, like your water bottle, sunblock, bug spray, a healthy protein-rich snack, and first aid kit. I have found that the day packs with the water chambers do the trick for me.
Check out my other health and fitness resources on BBAD:
Whatever you decide, just stay motivated and enjoy yourself!
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