When you’re a boss lady who’s got a lot of balls in the air at one time, it’s easy for you to forget to put yourself in the mix. And when you choose to take the time for self-care and start to exercise, your first desire might be to go for the simplest thing you can do starting out – you know like walking. But is exercise as simple as walking enough to improve your health? Well, I’ll answer that, starting with the short answer…
The short answer
- Walking is a full body exercise that can help you improve your health!
- An active person on average walks 10,000 steps a day. More on the minimum number to get you started further down in my answer.
- Tracking your steps can help you determine how much you currently walk and you can track your way to 10,000 by focusing on increasing your daily step count. You can either use a Fitbit or just use the tracker that comes with your smartphone to get you started.
Now let’s get into the details
I see walking as the forgotten child of running and strength training when it comes to exercise. And choosing to walk as your primary form of exercise can boost your long-term health.
First, whats walking [nope I’m not kidding]?
Walking is literally the act of putting one foot in front of the other and it engages all the muscles of your lower body and then some. Here is a simple snapshot of some of the muscles you use.
- calves help you point and push off your back foot. This action also engages the butt muscles in your back leg.
- hamstrings bend the knee as you push off the back foot.
- quads are used to straighten your back leg as it takes the lead.
- core muscles [the muscles in your hips, abdominals, and around your spine that keep you stable and the muscles in your shoulders that help you swing your arms].
This is a simplistic representation of a complex process, but reading through the list helps you realize that walking is no slacker.
Also the more you walk, the more times you recruit these muscle groups and the more benefits you get.
What benefits do you get from walking?
To look at more of the benefits of walking, the kind folks at the Harvard Medical School took some time to analyze some of the research that explains the benefits of walking. Here are some benefits – in the populations studied those who walked at least:
- 9 miles a week had a 22% lower death rate. That’s less than 1-1/2 miles a day or about 20 – 25 minutes of walking each day.
- 30 minutes a day had an 18% lower risk of coronary artery disease.
- 3 hours a week had 35% lower risk of a heart attack and cardiac death and a 34% lower risk of stroke.
And overall walkers gained LESS weight than those who didn’t over a 15-year period. If your desire to change your lifestyle is driven by a desire for better health, you can see that walking can have real benefits for you. Not only does it have these benefits, it is something that can be seamlessly incorporated into your life today!
How much should you walk to get the benefits?
The broad stroke recommendation for you to consider walking a viable form of physical activity is to walk 10,000 steps a day.
And 10,000 steps a day adds up to approximately about 5 miles, which is nothing to sneeze at in the activity department. It also closely correlates to the lifestyle of an active person, and if you couple it with three moderate to high-intensity workouts, you will be in business.
A little research showed that this 10,000 step-a-day guideline originated from a marketing campaign by a Japanese manufacturer of pedometers. So take it with a pinch of salt. Don’t put pressure on yourself to get to 10,000 steps a day. Start with what you can. As you saw in the section where I shared some research numbers, even as little as a 20 minute walk can have a big impact on your health.
Finally, how do you know how many steps you’ve taken?
There are activity trackers out there you can use. You can go for a basic pedometer to the more complex Fitbit.
If you want to see how step tracking will work for you without spending so much money up front, you can use the apps that come with most smartphones these days. You:
- can get one on your iOS [iPhone] or Android device.
- will have to carry your phone with you so that you can get an accurate step count.
- need to understand that it might not be as accurate as a dedicated step tracker like the Fitbit, but it’ll give you a good sense of where you are right now.
I know this is quite an info download, but it can change how you look at activity. If you don’t think you have enough time to exercise, at least now you know you can walk your way to better health.
It’s time to take action…
Answer this question in the comments section below: What will you do to walk more this week? Remember, as little as 20 minutes a day can pay off big!
Exercise is an important tool to help you live a healthy lifestyle, but there are more…
In You Don’t Need a Diet, I break down why diets don’t work to help you get healthy and lose weight, but I also share the eight tools you need to get results without dieting + how to get started no matter how busy you are.