It’s a whole new year and a new opportunity to invest in one of the most important things in your life: YOU! One of the easiest ways to instill healthy habits and motivate yourself to be more active is to get outside and start walking. Need some help getting started? Here is Walking: 15 Easy Tips for Beginners to Get In Your Steps!
Why bother walking, you ask? Walking as exercise has so many positive benefits. It is a free activity and does not take a lot of time, even 15 minutes a day can make a big difference. Walking is not damaging for healthy muscles and joints (as long as you wear the right kind of shoes), is not too strenuous, and can be done inside or outside. It does not matter if you live in the city or the country, there are plenty of opportunities to walk during every season of the year.
As you increase your endurance through walking, you may find that you want to do other exercise activities, such as running, hiking, or dance. According to many health and nutrition sources, walking has many great health benefits. It can:
- Burn Calories: Did you know that for approximately every 2000 steps you take, you can burn 100 calories? a 30-minute walk a day can use about 4000 steps or 200 calories burned.
- Lower Blood Sugar: Even a moderate amount of walking, particularly after meals, can help lower blood sugar.
- Lower High Blood Pressure: Studies have shown that walking caused a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In fact, according to the Arthritis Association, walking has been proven to decreased blood pressure in postmenopausal women.
- Increase Muscle Mass & Tone Body: Walking helps to increase muscle mass and tone your body, which can help burn even more calories and trim inches off.
- Improve Blood Circulation: Walking increases your heart rate, which gets the heart pumping more. Better circulation can help with arthritis, joint pain, and heart health.
- Decrease Anxiety & Boost Mood: It has been found that people who walk at least 10 minutes every day, particularly in natural settings, alleviate anxiety and help boost their mood. Walking also releases endorphins into your brain. I know that for me personally, walking is my time for myself. Sometimes I listen to new age music and sometimes I just enjoy the beautiful day or night around me. I’ve found that I am less grumpy the days I walk.
- Increases Creativity: In a study at Stanford University, researchers found that walking can boost creativity up to 60% and has been found to improve memory.
Walking has also been found to help with insomnia, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, and strengthen your muscles. Now that you know the reasons for walking, how about a few easy ways to get in more walking steps each day?
Six months ago I could not even walk around my block. I was 46 pounds heavier, had major joint pain (I have lupus), and had no motivation to walk. I had a million excuses not to exercise, but one big reason to do so, my health. A health scare in July changed my mentality and as part of several healthy lifestyle changes, I started to walk.
In September and October, I spent most of my days sitting in a hospital chair while my father was in the hospital. Since I already started my journey to better health, I was determined not to let my dad’s hospital stay be a setback for my own health, so when I would go to the hospital each morning, I parked in a far off parking garage to add steps on my walk to his hospital room.
I also would take laps around the hospital ward throughout the day to keep my joints from aching from sitting too long. At first, I only did about 2,000 steps a day, but while he was in the hospital, I increased my steps to about 7,500. When I came home, my steps dropped back down to about 2,500 and I have been steadily trying to increase them to between 6-7K a day. My goal is to consistently be at 8,000 steps at the beginning of February and 10,000 steps by March. I was a runner in high school and college and loved it, so my long term goal is to start running again by May.
Walking has become a way of life for me now; I know I am doing this for my health and wellbeing and enjoy taking care of myself in this way. Even a 15-20 minute walk each day clears my mind, calms my nerves, and helps me focus. If I cheat a little with eating during the day, I know more steps will take off those calories.
I live in Arizona, so walking outside during the heat of the day in the summer can be difficult, but I walk in the evening when it is cooler. During the spring, fall, and winter, I enjoy getting outside at dusk to listen to the birds and watch the beautiful southwest sunsets, even if some days are a bit chilly. Sometimes I listen to new age music to de-stress, and other times I listen to hip-hop or pop music to motivate me to move faster.
I still have a long way to go to get healthier, but walking is an important tool to help me achieve my goals!
How to Track Your Steps
The easiest way to track your steps is with the help of a digital health and fitness tracker such as a FitBit. You can also use the Health app on your iPhone, although you must have your iPhone on your body at all times to track the steps. I used to use the Health app on my phone but received a FitBit for Christmas. I love the FitBit because it not only tracks every step I take the moment I get out of bed until I got to bed, it also tracks my sleep cycle, how many calories a day I burn each day, and more! I can also join challenges with other FitBit users as an incentive to keep walking.
Walking: 15 Easy Tips to Get In Your Steps
- Get yourself a Fitbit or other step tracker to track your steps, or use the Health app on your mobile phone.
- Even when you are busy, make walking a priority by setting a goal to walk every day or at least 4-5 days a week.
- Create a song list to play while you walk, either something relaxing or something to get you moving.
- Park your car far from stores, doctor’s offices, and businesses, and walk.
- Limit using grocery delivery services and walk around the grocery store yourself.
- When doing laundry, take individual piles to the wash and back, making several trips instead of taking all at once.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Can’t get outside? Do a few laps around your house or up and down the stairs.
- When outdoors, mix up your routine with different paths and add some incline/hills to increase your endurance.
- Don’t walk just once a day. Get out in the morning, on your lunch break for a 10-minute walk, and at night to de-stress from a busy day.
- Find a walking buddy to motivate you or join a healthy living Facebook group with a virtual walking club!
- Pace around your kitchen or hallways while on telephone calls.
- Walk your dog or ask an elderly or disabled neighbor if you could walk their dog for them.
- Scope out interesting nature walking trails near your house and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.
- Visit your local botanical gardens, museum, or art galleries and educate yourself while you walk.
A Printable Walking Calendar
To start your program, download, and print this walking calendar to help keep track of your steps in 2020!