Most of us are now enjoying the warmer season and all of the outdoor activities it accommodates. Summer sports, such as golf and tennis, are a great way to increase physical activity but on your quest to increase your health and wellbeing, do not overlook the simple yet highly beneficial act of walking. Walking is one of our basic functional movements, yet half of Canadians walk less than 30 minutes a day. These numbers are especially concerning, as walking just half an hour a day can have significant health benefits to your body and mind.
A recent study found that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can reduce your chances of coronary artery disease by up to 30%.
Walking has also been shown to stimulate and protect brain tissue, reducing the risk of dementia by up to 40%. Still not convinced? Here’s another fact: Daily walking is linked to a reduction in depression and anxiety and an increase in overall feelings of wellbeing.
How Much is Enough?
So how do we know how intensely we need walk to reap the benefits mentioned above? After all, walking can be as slow as someone browsing an isle at a grocery store, or as fast as the Olympic speed walkers. The American College of Sport Medicine recommends that in order to gain the most from walking, we must be exercising at a level of ‘moderate’ intensity. To gauge this intensity, you can use the ‘talk test’. This means that you should walk at an intensity light enough to be able to carry a conversation, but not so easy that you would be able to sing. If you don’t have much time in your schedule, divide your walks into three sets of 10-minute bouts, at least five days a week.
If you have a pedometer (a step counter), aim for 10,000 steps per day. Research has shown a target goal of 10,000 steps/day is enough to stimulate desired health benefits.
5 Tips to Get Started
- Incorporate walking into your day: If you schedule daily walks, it will become routine. Walking to and from work, or going for walks on your lunch break are good ways to get started.
- Start a walking group: This is a great way to get motivated. Social interaction and peer support can give you the extra kick you need to get out there and get going.
- Dress for success: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! Dress in layers to allow you to adjust to changes in weather. Waterproof boots, big umbrellas, sunglasses, and hats, can give you that extra bit of protection that will make your walk more enjoyable.
- Get extra support with walking aids: Walking poles, which look similar to ski poles, will give you extra support. Using these while walking increases your base of support, giving extra stability to those concerned about balance. They also help promote good posture by encouraging an upright stance while walking. Last, but not least, they promote upper extremity involvement, contributing to a whole-body workout. You’ll find walking poles at most major pharmacies.
- Be creative: Walking can take place around your neighborhood, around your workplace, or through forest trail. To keep things interesting, don’t be afraid to take advantage of the many paths and trails available in SD&G and surrounding area. The local bike path offers a safe and scenic walking trail by the water. Gray’s Creek Conservation Area, the Bird Sanctuary, or the Summerstown Trails, offer cleared paths through the forest. Outdoor walking trails in different areas can be found on Alltrails.com. If the weather is not cooperating (which tends to happen around here), the Civic Complex and the Benson Centre have indoor walking tracks. It is not uncommon to use the halls of a shopping mall, such as the Cornwall Square, either!
If you’d like more information on how to incorporate walking into your daily life, talk to your physiotherapist at Active Sport Physiotherapy!