Walking is one of the easiest and best activities for losing weight and staying fit. To get the most benefit, some organizations recommend that you aim to take 10,000 steps per day. It’s certainly a great goal to strive for.
This magic number of steps is the equivalent of moving almost five miles. When you walk this distance, you will burn somewhere between 35 and 120 calories per mile. It all depends on how well your body adapts to taking on oxygen and using fuel for energy.
Boost your heart health by walking more
Moving around is also important for your cardiovascular health. A sedentary lifestyle could lead to health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, can lower your resting heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars while reducing your risk of developing diabetes or heart disease.
It’s not too difficult to reach the 10,000-step milestone on a daily basis. You don’t have to run a marathon. However, attaining this goal for optimal cardiovascular health is meaningless if you are not doing at least 10 minutes of consecutive walking.
You should walk for at least 10 minutes nonstop to consider it as cardiovascular exercise. Don’t worry about how fast you are moving. You don’t have to make it all-out intense — just be sure to make it consecutive movement.
Reaching your daily and weekly goals — a little at a time
Here are four simple ways to help you to put in that distance — almost without feeling it — and also obtain the benefits of 10 minutes of consecutive walking:
1. Park in the space farthest from the door in every parking lot.
Whether you’re at the mall, the rec center, your workplace or the grocery store, always park as far away from your destination as possible.
2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Walking up the stairs will help toward your goal for cardiovascular exercise too.
3. Use the bathroom farthest from your desk or station at work.
If you work in a large building, this makes a big difference. You can even find bathrooms on other floors in a multi-floor office building — and don’t forget to take the stairs there and back.
4. Walk during your lunch hour.
Take 10 minutes from your allowed lunchtime to go for a walk, if you are able.
By the end of the week, you want to achieve, at minimum, a total of 150 minutes of consecutive movement. But you don’t have to follow a structured schedule each day.
One day, you may get a 10-minute walk in during lunch and the next day a 45-minute walk in the morning before work. That’s 55 minutes toward your goal of 150 minutes. Some days, you may not get in those consecutive steps.
You can start small, and build
If you live a sedentary lifestyle and you are not used to walking, start off with five minutes of consecutive walking. Or if that’s still too daunting, aim for three minutes of walking at a time. As long as you become more active, you are doing more for your body than sitting down on your couch and just watching TV.
Whether you are striving for those 10,000 daily steps or 150 minutes of consecutive steps per week, trying to improve your overall health is your ultimate goal. As long as you begin to move every day, you’ll find that taking those steps will become easier.
(A Wellness Update is a magazine devoted to up-to-the minute information on health issues from physicians, major hospitals and clinics, universities and health care agencies across the U.S. Online at www.awellnessupdate.com.)
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Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.