Walk Your Way To Better Health
For the majority of Americans, maintaining gym memberships and expensive outdoor activities may become more difficult to afford as their primary ways to lose weight or stay in shape in 2009. But walking, one of the easiest and most cost-effective forms of exercise is the perfect activity to help achieve fitness goals and decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention recommends walking 10,000 steps a day to improve your overall health and fitness, help with weight loss and prevent chronic disease. While the majority of people recognize walking as one of the easiest ways to meet daily exercise targets, more than half of them are unaware of the CDC's recommended daily step count, according to an Omron Healthcare survey of fitness habits.
"Walking can be incorporated into your daily routine whether you choose to walk to your daily destinations such as work or the grocery store, walk your dog, or plan a longer walk outdoors," said Dr. Melina Jampolis, physician nutrition specialist, and author of The No-Time-to-Lose Diet. "Making just a small investment in a pedometer can help you add up all of the steps you're taking during the day to make sure you're reaching fitness goals."
Dr. Jampolis' wallet-friendly walking tips for better health in 2009:
1. Walk outdoors -- it's free! -- It doesn't cost a penny to walk to or from work, or develop a scenic route near your house that enables you to be safe and comfortable, while allowing you to take enough steps to add up to your 10,000 total. Remember to always share your route with another person for safety's sake.
2. Fancy walking clothes not necessary: wear clothes you already have, and remember to layer -- Make sure you have the flexibility to walk indoors and out by wearing layers. If walking outside in colder winter weather, for example, wear a base layer of wicking fabric that keeps moisture away from the skin, an insulating layer such as fleece or wool to keep warm, and a winter jacket with hood if necessary for further protection from the elements.
3. Make a small investment for big gains -- purchase a pedometer* -- If you make one investment as part of your walking efforts, make it a pedometer. Research from Stanford University(1) shows people who use pedometers and set daily step goals walk significantly more than those who don't. However, not all pedometers are equal. If you shake it and hear the pendulum mechanism, it probably isn't accurate. Help meet your 10,000 steps with a GOsmart pedometer with proven accuracy. Some Omron GOsmart models track aerobic steps in addition to regular steps, hook up to a computer for easy tracking of results, or can be placed in a pocket or bag to accurately track distance walked.
4. Add music if you can -- research shows that adding medium tempo music to your walking routine can help keep you motivated. This is especially helpful for indoor walking as it can encourage you to walk faster and burn more calories in the absence of outdoor scenery and variety.
5. Hydrate and check with your doctor -- drink plenty of water before, during, and after walking, and skip the expensive sports drinks or designer waters. They add calories, cost more and are unnecessary for the average exerciser. And be sure to seek medical advice before you start a walking program to ensure you are healthy enough for exercise.
For many people, starting a fitness regime -- even walking -- and evaluating the potential costs associated with exercising can be daunting. Dr. Jampolis added, "For a little extra motivation, find a walking group in your community and keep an accurate pedometer at the ready -- especially one that can easily be placed in a pocket or a bag -- to monitor your progress, ensuring you get all the credit you deserve for your efforts. Try walking seven and a half minutes in one direction and covering the same distance back for a 15 minute walk. It all counts."