While running may be considered the darling of aerobic exercise, putting one foot in front of the other at a moderate pace can also provide ample benefits to your heart and overall health, with less risk of injury. In fact, the simple, affordable act of walking can add years to your life, and moving at a faster clip may further boost longevity.
According to Harvard Health, walking improves key cardiovascular disease risk factors, including cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, inflammation and stress—all things that can lower your chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
To get the most from your walks, certified medical exercise specialist and personal trainer Tina Vande Guchte offers these tips:
- If the shoe fits, wear it: Choosing the right pair of athletic shoes is essential. Keep in mind, fit and comfort matter much more than style. A fitness store can evaluate your gait and make recommendations on the best shoe for you. You could also consider a comprehensive clinical evaluation using Holland Hospital 3-D Gait technology.
- Stay on track: Keeping tabs on how far you walk nudges motivation and goal setting. While there are a wide variety of fitness trackers and gadgets available today, a simple pedometer will also do the trick. Aim for 7000 to 10,000 steps per day.
- Mix it up and max the fun: Don’t forget to occasionally veer off the beaten path or take the scenic route. Changing your routine will keep boredom at bay, and your body and mind con-tinually challenged. Listen to music or invite a friend along to boost the fun factor. Check out some of our local community walking groups, too. You should look forward to walking, not dread it.
- Harness hills: Once you’re comfortable trekking on flat terrain, embrace more hills. Walking hills tones and strengthens your major leg muscles. Aim to conquer a hilly route once or twice each week because walking on an incline burns more calories, and walking downhill builds bone density.
- Picture perfect posture: For better breathing and joint protection, stand tall with your chest lifted, abdominals braced, and shoulders back and down. Keep your chin up and your gaze forward. Swinging your arms allows you to walk faster and incorporate your upper body and core. Bend your arms at 90 degrees and pump from the shoulder, like a race walker. Keep your wrists straight, your hands unclenched and your elbows close to your sides.
Move it or Lose it
The verdict is in: walking is one of the best actions you can take to enhance your health and well-being. When feeling swamped or stressed, steal away for a 10-minute walking break to boost energy, mood and metabolism.
For the greatest health rewards, adults should get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous in-tensity exercise most days of the week. Try to move more and sit less throughout the day, and remember some activity is always better than none.