Unfortunately, not everyone believes walking is a need. Some do. But for many people, walking is just something they do on the way to the fridge or when they go from one place to sit to the next. In fact, there are a lot of people who do not think much about walking at all, even when they are doing it! They might as well be a head on a big blob that just goes from place to place.
In this vein, the American Heart Association (AHA) has established the National Walking Day to get everyone focused on the importance of regularly walking for our heart, blood pressure, and circulation. In fact, there are countless benefits from walking.
If you want to learn about some of the more interesting ones, read about how walking makes your brain younger, prevents cataracts and reverses harmful genetic changes that can occur from too much sitting.
An Office Culture of Sitting
The AHA is focusing this year on occupations where sitting at a desk rules. According to the AHA, those numbers are increasing. Today’s workplace has far fewer jobs that involve physically moving. In 1950, 75% of jobs made workers get physical; today, the number has plummeted to 25%.
Few believe the current obesity epidemic isn’t directly tied to these statistics. We’ve added 83% more sedentary jobs since the 1950s, as manufacturing work in the U.S. has dwindled and white-collar work increased.
That’s good news in many respects, including better workforce safety and a rise in marketable job skills. However, most workers haven’t increased physical activity in their free time enough to compensate for that increased sitting. Worse, the amount of hours we’re working has increased with it.
Together, all this equals a troubling formula: we’re working longer, sitting more and have less time to walk.
Additionally, outside the workplace, we have less need to walk. We no longer need to stand up to even answer the telephone!
Modern conveniences, such as cars, remote controls, elevators and so on, are killing us. My home even came with a built in sprinkler. Honestly, I do not miss moving the sprinkler every two hours to a new patch of grass, but I do realize that the walking I was doing did add up.
When we think about our Western lifestyle in these terms, I’m not surprised to learn we have an obesity epidemic. However, I know the power of walking can change this trend.
Make Every Day a Walking Day
As most avid people who are walking for health know, “going big” one day and making walking part of your life are two different things.
I’m encouraging walkers everywhere to use this April 3 as the impetus to move to the next level. If you’re walking three times a week, it’s time to make it a five-day walk week. If you’re walking five days a week, I would say you’re ready to make all seven days a walking day!
I cannot emphasize this enough: our goal needs to be to make every day a walking day.
My 5 Point Walking Plan for YOU!
To that end, I’ve designed a five-point plan to help us take our walking for health to the next level. Here are five ways to keep after your fitness goals:
1. Block off a time to walk every day. In a study I discussed earlier this year, the most active walkers were asked what made them get out so often. Many said they made time for walking as they would for other daily essentials – cooking for the family, going shopping for basic needs, returning emails, etc.
If we can set aside time to sleep, why not set aside time to walk? It is just as important!
By reserving a specific, scheduled time to go walking, people in the study said it seemed like there was no other choice. (Frankly, if you care about your health, there is no other choice.)
2. Take time each day to remember why walking is so important. You cannot forget the importance of mental fortitude in the pursuit of good health.
Take a few minutes each day to gather yourself and remember why you’re walking. For most of us, it’s about health and fitness.
Beyond these reasons, think about the big reasons: extending your time here, warding off frailty, and feeling as good as you can each day.
3. Get the tools of the trade. After celebrity Howie Mandel appeared on the “Ellen” show with a pedometer, this tool of the walking trade has gotten good press. Pedometers count steps and distances while you walk and come in a variety of forms. If (like Howie) you’re trying to reach 10,000 steps a day, you’ll find this tool essential.
Along with a pedometer, use one of the walking journals in the Free Download section of this website to track your progress. Studies have shown that people who track their walking (and set reasonable goals — like going for a walk every day), tend to do better over time. If the walking journals I have on this website do not suit you, make your own.
4. Make a walking date. Walkers get out more when they walk with others. So try increasing the number of walking friends in your life. You’ll push each other to meet your goals. I have discussed research (click here) that shows that walking with others helps keep us motivated to walk more.
It’s not always easy to find other people committed to walking for health, so I recommend MeetUps or the American Volkssport Association. I guarantee you will have a positive experience with these friendly, like-minded, walking-committed people. There’s no competition with these groups, too. The only “pressure” is to get out and join the group. This is the kind of pressure we all can use at times.
5. Plan a list of dream walks. Variety is a key to keeping walking interesting. Try to stimulate yourself to walk in new places or take new routes. Maybe you should give yourself the goal of walking every street in your town or city! I’ve written about walkers who have tracked every street in San Francisco and New York City.
I’ve also heard of people who go on vacations strictly to walk certain trails (the Machu Picchu walk in Peru comes to mind). Make a list of spots you love to walk and keep most of them local. You’ll always have a reason to lace up your walking shoes.
This National Walking Day set a goal to take your walking to the next level: make EVERY DAY a walking day.
This is a simple, profound and highly beneficial message – share it with your friends, and even plan a walk with them! They will thank you and I will too!
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