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Walking: A Simple and Effective Way to Stay Healthy

Posted Mar 30 2011 12:00am
by Jason Bosley-Smith, CSCS, Lead Lifestyle Coach, Live Well @ LifeBridge

Research results could hardly be clearer: Taking a walk is one of the best ways to take charge of your health, so get out there and start your walking workout routine! A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (February 11, 1998) showed that walking briskly for half an hour just six times a month cut the risk of premature death in men and women by 44 percent. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine (January 8, 1997) reported that men 61 to 81 years old sharply reduced their risk of death from all causes, including cancer and heart disease, by walking two miles a day. Other research has shown similar results for women.

The added benefit of walking is that it’s simple to do anywhere, anytime! Walking requires no special equipment and can be performed outdoors or inside through hallways and stairwells. With a walking routine, you can begin at your own pace and find a level of intensity that is appropriate for your own personal starting point; therefore, whether you’re 21 or 61, walking can serve as an ideal form of activity.

Begin by moving at a comfortable pace and use the “talk test” ” to measure your intensityTalk Test
- Too Intense – You can barely breathe and can’t carry on light conversation.
- Too Easy – You can recite Shakespeare.
- Just Right – You can speak in short phrases but still feel breathing and heart rate slightly elevated.

Here are some other tips for making the most out of your walking workout1. Partner Up – Studies have shown that individuals are more likely to adhere to a routine when paired up with another person. Find a friend or coworker and agree to walk together each day at lunch. Using the “buddy system” like this can also help each of you keep one another accountable.
2. Warm Up First, Then Stretch – Begin your walking workout with a brief 5 minute light walk then stop to stretch before continuing on for your extended routine. Focus on stretching the shoulders, hips and calves as these muscles are most involved in your walking pattern.
3. Practice Posture – As you walk, keep your shoulders back, chest out and chin up. Poor posture creates aches and pains and prevents optimal breathing. By keeping your posture “tall,” you’ll open up your lungs to take deeper, fuller breaths as you walk and prevent tension in the neck, shoulders and back.
4. Arm Action – Pump your arms as you walk to create more motion in your upper body. The more muscles you move, the more calories you burn so get the arms involved in the action.
5. Let Go – Forget about the stress and worries of the day and let your mind focus on what your body is doing. Avoid talking about work or other stressful situations throughout the time of your walk. Give your brain a break, smile and have fun!
Aim for a 10-15 minute walk when you first begin, and then gradually add 2 minutes to your walk each week until you reach a 30 minute walking routine. Now get up, get going, and walk it out!
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