Experts say that walking for two and a half hours a week, which factors out to just 21 minutes a day, can cut your risk of heart disease by 30 percent. In addition, this do-anywhere, no-equipment-required activity has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and keep you mentally sharp.
As an activity you already do daily, walking is approachable, accessible and provides massive benefits for even the tiniest amount of work. A University of Utah study in 2014 found that for every minute of brisk walking that women did throughout the day, they lowered their risk of obesity by five percent.
Interested in seeing what benefits regular walking can provide for you? Here are some tips and tricks to get you started:
Plan your routine
As you start your walking routine, remember to:
- Grab the right gear. Choose shoes that will absorb shock while cushioning your feet and wear comfortable clothes appropriate for the weather. If you walk outdoors when it’s dark, wear bright colors or reflective tape for visibility.
- Choose your course carefully. If you’ll be walking outdoors, always walk in safe, well-lit locations with level ground. If the weather is not appropriate for walking, consider walking in a shopping mall that offers open times for walkers.
- Warm up and cool down. Walk slowly for five to ten minutes to prepare your body for exercise and again after your brisk walk to help your muscles cool down.
- Stretch. After you cool down, gently stretch your muscles. If you’d rather stretch before you walk, remember to warm up first.
Set realistic goals
It’s okay to start slowly, especially if you have not been exercising regularly. You might start with five minutes a day the first week, and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes a day. If you can’t set aside that much time, try several short sessions of activity throughout the day. The important thing is that you are making a conscious effort to be active and continue to make progress.
Starting a walking program takes initiative. Sticking with it takes commitment. To stay motivated:
- Make walking enjoyable. Listening to music is a great way to make walking exciting and can help keep you inspired as you stroll. If you prefer group activities, ask a friend or two to join you.
- Vary your routine. If you walk outdoors, plan several different routes to keep things interesting. If you’re walking alone, be sure to tell someone which route you’re taking.
- Take missed days in stride. If you find yourself skipping your daily walks, do not give up! Remind yourself how good you feel when you include physical activity in your daily routine and then get back on track.