When my daughter was a toddler, she had a talking toy Bullwinkle Moose that said “walking is good for you!” For years it was a bit of a family joke and every time we went for a walk, someone had to quote Bullwinkle.
Now, science is firmly behind the concept that walking really is good for you! Among others, the American Heart Association promotes the positive benefits of walking. The simple of activity of walking can:
- Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids profile.
- Maintain your body weight and lower risk of obesity.
- Reduce your risk of osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer.
- Reduce your risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes.
What do you need to start walking? Basically you just need comfortable supportive shoes and a safe place to walk.
The Mayo Clinic gives some suggestions for starting and maintaining a walking habit.
- Set yourself up for success! Have a simple, attainable goal. Maybe the first week you plan to walk 5 minutes at lunch time. Once that becomes a habit, gradually add time to your walk.
- Track your progress. It can be very motivating to see how many miles you have walked in a week, month or year. You can record this in a journal, a spreadsheet or an online app.
- Make it enjoyable. Some people like to walk alone, listening to music or just enjoying some “me” time. Others prefer to walk with a friend or two. Find out what works for you.
- Vary your routine. Plan a couple of different routes – walk outside when possible or join others walking at the gym or local mall. If you’re walking alone, let someone know where you will be walking. Keep your cell phone in your pocket for emergency calls! If you have a light or whistle, take it with you.
- If you miss a day or two, don’t give up! Remind yourself how good you felt when you were walking regularly and ease back into it.
While walking is a relatively low risk activity, you still want to think of preventing injuries to yourself. If you haven’t been active, start slow and gradually add to your time, distance and speed. To avoid blisters, some studies have shown that synthetic fiber socks can be better than cotton socks which absorb moisture and increase friction. Shin splints (pain on the front of your lower leg) and knee pain can be prevented or minimized by wearing proper, supportive footwear and stretching and strengthening the supportive muscles.
Remember, every step you take helps you lead a healthier life. So, get up, lace on your walking shoes and get going!
Written by: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, FCS, OSU Extension, Franklin County email@example.com
Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, FCS, OSU Extension ,Pickaway County firstname.lastname@example.org