LIVINGSTON — With the arrival of spring, now is a great time to take advantage of the warm weather to start exercising. And, one of the best and least expensive forms of aerobic activity is walking.
“People are always amazed to learn that walking just one mile a day can burn 100 calories,” explains Maureen Smith, RN, Nurse Manager of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. “That averages out to a weight loss of about ten pounds in a year and that is without changing your eating habits.”
Walking not only increases a person’s physical activity and controls weight gain, it also has many important health benefits, including improving cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and improving mood.
Most experts agree that walking 6,000 steps daily can improve a person’s health and that taking 10,000 steps a day will contribute to weight loss. In fact, research shows that women who averaged more than 10,000 steps a day had 40 percent less body fat and waist and hip measurements and were four to six inches narrower than those who averaged fewer than 6,000 steps.
Smith explains that for most people, one mile is equal to 2,000 steps or a 20-minute walk. She provides the following tips and advice to help people get started on increasing their daily number of steps and improving their health:
- Walk instead of drive. Rethink how you do your local errands; cross things off your list by walking places when your time allows.
- Use a pedometer to count your steps. Wear it all day and try to take at least 2,000 more steps a day than you normally do, and gradually increase your steps over time.
- Combine short burst of exercise to create one long workout. Aim to get in three 10-minute or two 15-minute walks, or a 30-minute walk each day.
- Make it social. Finding a workout partner or a group of friends who can help keep you on track and motivate you to get out the door.
- Hunt for the farthest parking space. If you drive to work or run errands, purposefully park your car a little farther from your office or the store. It may not seem like much, but over weeks and months, these minutes of exercise add up.
- Take the stairs. Though more of a challenge, walking up stairs burns more calories per minute than most other forms of physical activity.
- Trade screen time for active time. Turn off the TV, computer, and smart phone and talk a walk.
- Put exercise on your calendar. Plan specific time in your schedule to exercise and put it in your planner.
- Take lunch on the move. Don’t spend your entire allotted lunch time sitting. Recruit some co-workers and take a 10- or 20-minute walk.
“The best way to get exercise is by doing something you like,” reminds Smith. “If walking is not your favorite, there are so many other forms of exercise to try.” A lot of different things count as exercise, like dancing, walking, gardening, yoga, cycling and playing basketball.
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