Walk Your Way to Better Health

Sandy Tschosik, RN
St. Alexius’ Community Health Services Coordinator

WalkingObesity is on the rise. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancers. It also affects people emotionally and psychologically and can lead to isolation and social stigmatization. Although genetics and hormonal disorders can contribute to weight gain and obesity, most of the time obesity is caused by poor eating habits and lack of physical activity.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than half of all adults get the recommended amount of physical activity.  Adults need at least 2 and ½ hours of moderate physical activity a week. Children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes per day. Physical activity can be anything from house and yard work to more strenuous activities like running.

Walking has gained a lot of popularity and is one of the easiest things you can do to become more physically active. It is easy, free and accessible to just about everybody.  Walking can be done almost anywhere and anytime, like in the neighborhood, a park, trail, track or the mall.

What are the benefits of walking regularly?

  • Brisk walking (one mile in 15 minutes) burns approximately the same number of calories as jogging.
  • It helps people to lose or manage weight.
  • It is low impact exercise that is easy on the body but still tones muscles and strengthens bones.
  • It lowers the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raises the “good” cholesterol (HDL).
  • It lowers blood pressure and your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
  • It improves your mood and gives you more energy.
  • It gives you an opportunity to socialize with family, friends and colleagues.
  • Walking to your destination versus driving is better for the environment.

If you have been walking regularly, keep doing what you are doing. However, if you are just getting started, focus on the basics:

  • Make sure you wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes and comfortable clothing.
  • Choose a safe place to walk, and be aware of your surroundings.
  • To avoid injury it is important to properly warm up your muscles and stretch before you exercise.
  • Start slowly.  For example, you might start out walking for five to ten minutes, gradually increasing to 15 minutes two to three times per week.
  • Learn what your target heart rate should be and monitor your pulse during exercise so that you can maximize the intensity of your workout without overdoing it.
  • At the end of your walk, take time to cool down and stretch.
  • Keep track of your progress, and gradually build up your endurance over several weeks until you are comfortably walking 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. 

Don’t let your weight bring you down. A healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise is a step in the right direction to improve your overall health and well-being. Get active and take a walk towards wellness.