Walking is easy for most of us. You just put one foot in front of the other. Eventually, you arrive at a destination. Walking is more than basic transportation, though. Since walking is easy, it’s also an excellent intro to beginning exercise for healthy people. It requires only basic equipment (comfortable shoes) and an optional pedometer to track your progress.
Know the Benefits of Walking
Walking, like most aerobic exercises, helps strengthen bones, decrease depression, and lower risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. It also helps trim the waistline, tones the abdomen and legs, and increases healthy weight loss.
However, walking for health imparts unique benefits.
- No special equipment – All you need is a pair of shoes, comfortable clothing and, ideally, a pedometer.
- Easy to do with a friend – It’s hard to carry on a conversation during high-impact exercises like running or HIIT. Having a good talk with a friend has it’s own cathartic benefits.
- More scenic than a gym.
- May lower Alzheimer’s risk according to a University of Virginia study.
- Improves mood – a 10-minute walk can improve your mood for 2 hours. Get 3 10-minute walks a day and have 6-hours of feel good time. Sounds like a good use of time to me!
- It’s low impact and doesn’t stress the body as much as some other forms of physical fitness
How Much Walking Do You Need?
Fitness experts recommend 10,000 steps a day for weight loss. That works out to about 30 minutes of brisk walking, or approximately five miles. In that 30 minutes, most average-sized adults burn about around calories.
Don’t feel like you have to jump in with a 10,000 step goal. Start with something that works for you. Wear a pedometer for a few days to see what your average daily step count is. Then, start from there and add a few hundred steps. Reach that goal consistently. Then, adjust your aim accordingly.
As I’ve stated in my goal setting blog post, to know if you are reaching your goals, you have to make your goals measurable, achievable, and you have to track your progress. It doesn’t matter if you start at 10,000 or 1,000. Just start at a number that is challenging for you. Count and track.
Many people use expensive gadgets that track their pulse rate and sleep habits, in addition to their daily steps. For the average fitness walker, these devices are probably overkill. But I do recommend using a pedometer to ensure you’re getting your steps.
Tracking Those Steps with a Pedometer
I’ve been using the SC2 Digital Pedometer from OZO Fitness. They also sell their pedometer on Amazon. It clips easily to a belt or a lanyard and continues to track if hidden discretely in a shirt pocket. If you choose to carry it in a pocket, I do recommend putting it in a pocket that isn’t impacted by sitting or squatting.
It works as a watch, too and has a large screen. Trust me, my old eyes appreciate this feature. The SC2 also maintains 7 days worth of records and resets daily at midnight.
I’ve actually lost other pedometers because the clip came loose, but haven’t had that problem with the SC2 Digital Pedometer. The sturdy clip stays right where I put it all day long.
I have noticed a bit of discrepancy between the counts on my FitBit and the SC2. I believe that is because the SC2 doesn’t start counting steps until you have taken 15 in a row to control for false step counting. Whereas, my FitBit starts counting immediately and definitely counts false steps. One time, it counted several hundred steps when I was sweeping the floor in a small kitchen.
The discrepancy (about 200-300 steps a day) is minute enough, however, that I feel confident recommending the SC2 to someone who doesn’t need all the bells and whistles. It’s also a great option for someone that doesn’t think a black, plastic-looking watch is an attractive fashion accessory.
It’s also easy to set up. Here’s a video I made showing how to configure the OZO Fitness SC2 Digital Pedometer.
Proper Walking Technique
To get the most benefit from walking for fitness, you should utilize proper form. You will burn more calories and better prevent injuries.
- Keep your chin up. Look straight ahead and not at the ground. Not only are you more aware of your surroundings (which is better for your personal safety), you are also putting less stress on the neck.
- Bend your arms as you swing them. You burn more calories if you bend your arms while swinging them than if you let them flow naturally.
- Engage the core. Tightening your abdomen as you walk helps to trim the waistline. It also contributes to strengthening the hip flexors which, in turn, protect the lower back.
- Roll from the heel to the ball of the foot. This action strengthens the calves and ankles helping with balance and coordination.
- Increase intensity as your fitness improves. Look for inclines. Walk a little faster. Swing your arms a little faster.
Easy Tricks to Sneak in More Daily Steps
10,000 steps may seem a bit daunting, but there are some sneaky ways to get them in – and no, I’m not talking about sweeping with a FitBit to falsely inflate your numbers.
- Don’t take the easy way out doing household chores. Carrying a basket with you as you clean your home may be more efficient, but it’s robbing you of some extra steps. As I am cleaning, I take the most inefficient route. For example, when doing laundry, I don’t pile it all in a basket and go room to room with it. I put up the bathroom towels and return to the stack. I get the kitchen towels and put them away. Then I go back to the laundry room for the next room’s clothing. I actually add about 500 steps to my day this way.
- Walk to the store. If you need only a couple of essentials, and the store isn’t far away, then enjoy a walk. I have agoraphobia and do not drive. Frequently, I call up my son who lives across the street to meet me at the end of my driveway for a walk to the grocery store. I get fresh air and get to spend time with my son, while still feeling a little safer.
- Take the Stairs. Again, I do this naturally due to my agoraphobia. I prefer not to take the stairs. However, most people rely on the elevator or escalator to reach higher floors. Consider taking at least a few flights of stairs instead. You get in more steps, but you also burn more calories since stair climbing increases intensity.
- Park farther away. Don’t circle the parking lot like a buzzard looking for the best parking spots. Save those places for the elderly and pregnant moms with toddlers that really need them. Not only will you not stress yourself out fighting frantically for prime real estate, but you’ll also shave a few more steps off your daily goal.
- Pace During Phone Calls. Get up from your desk (or off the couch) when you talk on the phone. If you have a 10-minute phone conversation, put on your earbuds and go for a walk. What do you know? You’ve completed 1/3rd of your daily fitness requirement!
- Dance while you do chores. Up your step-count and get in a little more butt and core work by listening to music and dancing. A little fancy footwork helps burn calories and increases the step count.
So, that’s the basics. How do you think integrating walking goals into your daily life could benefit you?
This post is sponsored by OZO Fitness, but all opinions are my own.
We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.