One of the best activities you can do to improve your health

*This article was originally published in Panorama Community Magazine May 2022

You won’t see this activity on a late-night infomercial…and you don’t have to call your insurance company for a pre-authorization to participate.  More often than not, you don’t even have to purchase special equipment to take part in it.  

One of the best activities we can do to improve our health is…drumroll please…go for a walk!

walking image

Some people tend to overcomplicate adding healthy activities into their life.  They may focus on where to find the best gym membership or acquiring equipment for their home and end up overlooking a great activity, in this case walking, that can have a great impact on their life.  Even better, it costs you nothing!  

Health Benefits

There is an abundant amount of literature supporting the benefits of walking and its health benefits:  improved blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, weight loss, lowering risk of cardiovascular disease, and improved mental health.  For those at risk for bone and joint disorders (ex., osteoporosis), walking has been shown to help prevent or delay the onset of these conditions or help them remain manageable.    

In addition, research also suggests that walking with others has demonstrated greater health benefits than those who walked alone.  All the more reason to ask a friend or someone to come along! 

In addition, research has demonstrated enhanced benefits to mental health for those walking in nature as opposed to more urban environments.  However, don’t take an all-or-nothing approach…if the only walk you can get in is around downtown, then go for it! 

If you think there is potentially a reason you should not add walking to your routine, feel free to double-check with your primary care provider.  

How much should you walk?

 We now know the benefits of walking and are looking to take that next step…no pun intended…to incorporate walking into our daily routine.  The general recommendation is anywhere between eight and ten thousand steps per day.  Not everyone is going to be able to go from walking just a few thousand and ramping up to 10,000.  If you have a device that tracks your steps, take a look at the data.  What have you been averaging? Whatever that number might be, perhaps aim for about 1000 steps beyond that.  Once you have been able to consistently do that, increase again.  Another strategy might be to aim for time devoted to just going for a walk.  For example, maybe you aim for just an additional 10 minutes each day.  

Of note…don’t become overwhelmed by seeing the number 10,000.  For perspective, a roughly 15 minute walk with my dog that is approximately 0.80 miles usually gets me about 2500 steps +/-.  

Moving Forward

Whatever approach you feel might be best for you, consider this framework that I like from Tim Grover, author of Relentless and W1nning.  Decide.  Commit.  Act.  Succeed.  Repeat.  

1 – Decide what your daily goal will be.  I will walk for 10 minutes each day.  

2 – Commit to getting it done.  Rain, sleet or shine, it gets done…even if you have to walk from one end of the house or apartment back and forth for 10 minutes.  

3 – Act.  Get those steps in!

4 – Succeed.  Be proud of doing something good for you!  Perhaps find a way to follow-up your walking with something else that signifies you accomplished your goal for today.  If you are a checklist person, cross it off the list.  Maybe draw a line through the day on the calendar.  Or, in a notebook, journal the thoughts that came to mind while you were walking (so many ideas come to mind when I am out on a walk!).  

5 – Repeat! 

I’d love to be your accountability partner!  Feel free to message me on social media or email me–I’d love to know, what did you decide to commit to this month?  

In conclusion, walking is a great way to dip your toes into improving your overall state of wellness.   Instituting a walking routine might also be a great way to exercise that discipline muscle.  For example, if you can be consistent with this activity in your daily life, it will be a boost to your confidence that you can complete other tasks that are meaningful to you.