It's easy to get caught up in the notion that in order to improve your health, you must make huge, demanding changes. However, it can be as easy as changing the total number of steps you take in a day. Walking is probably one of the first things you learned to do, and you may have grown to take the skill for granted. It's time to not only appreciate the task much more but also to devote a little extra time to it. There are many benefits to walking, and if you are able to put a focus on increasing your steps every day, you will be well on your way to a happier, healthier lifestyle.
The Health Benefits of Walking
An almost instant effect you may experience after or even during a walk is a boost in your mood. If the weather permits, get outside. Take a moment to appreciate your surroundings and take in the beauty of the world. With no one around, your thoughts can flow freely. This is a great time to think about issues you may have been sticking on the back burner or even to make a mental list of things in your life you are thankful for. Let go of stress, appreciate the good, and just be present.
Walk with a pep in your step, and soon you'll notice a slight rise in blood pressure. As long as blood is flowing through your veins at an increased rate, you'll benefit from improved circulation. If you feel yourself getting sluggish at work, take a short, brisk walk around the parking lot on your lunch break. The boost in circulation will actually help you feel more energized. And, as far as long term benefits go, you can look forward to better-looking skin, consistently higher energy levels, better sleep, a stronger immune system, and much more.
Weight Loss, Flexibility and Strength
We all know that exercise can give us a leaner figure. Just by increasing your mobility, your body will burn excess fat, replacing it with lean muscle. Say hello to a more toned, tight figure and goodbye to all that weight you were carrying around in fat stores. With all of that muscle comes greater strength. And, as long as you keep moving, you'll increase your flexibility as well. Make sure you do basic stretches before and after your walk to keep muscles long, nimble and cramp-free.
Strong Bones and Less Stiffness
Your muscles aren't the only ones getting stronger. Since walking requires you to be on your feet, the weight of your body pressing down from head to toe makes it a weight-bearing activity. Your bones will thank you for this, especially with age when diseases like osteoporosis become more common. Bones will get stronger and sturdier but that's not all. You know when you get out of bed in the morning and you hear all that cracking and popping and avoid sitting up too quickly in fear of straining something? Well, if you make the weight-bearing activity a regular part of your routine, you'll also start to experience a decrease in stiffness overall. Your whole body is going to thank you.
Lower Risk of Disease
There are medical terms and phrases we often hear that can be extremely frightening—high cholesterol, heart attack, high blood pressure, dementia, diabetes, cancer. They can be devastating, completely changing the way we live or even ending life itself. Luckily, there are changes you can make today that will lower your chances of hearing those terms from your doctor. Get on your way toward a better future by walking just a little further every day. A healthy lifestyle means a healthier you.
Reaping the Benefits of Walking: Where to Start
You probably fall into one of the following three groups of people. The first group tends to put their health on hold. Maybe you think you're too busy to devote time to exercise, too broke to buy healthy foods, or frankly don't care enough to make a change. Group two is quite the opposite. They are nearly always aware of the implications of unhealthy choices and do everything possible to stay fit. Or, maybe you fall somewhere in between the two groups. You could do better but for the most part, you consider yourself pretty healthy.
The beauty of walking is that just about everyone can benefit from it, no matter which group you fall into. As long as you are able-bodied, walking is a great low-impact exercise that can be extremely enjoyable. It can be just the health boost you need, whether it is the only exercise you partake in or one last little push on top of everything else. It is important to note that you should speak with your doctor before making any significant lifestyle changes, such as diet or exercise. If you suffer from any health complications, disease or disorder, do not embark on a new health regimen without first speaking with your healthcare physician. As soon as you get a thumbs-up from the doctor, it's time to start reaping the benefits of a few extra steps.
Using a Pedometer to Measure Your Steps
A great way to assess where you are and where you should be is to purchase a pedometer. A pedometer is a small, lightweight tracking device that measures how many steps you take in a chosen length of time, such as one day. The device can be reset with the click of a button, sending it straight back to zero. They're easy to use and even more importantly, cheap to purchase.
When you first get ahold of your pedometer, you'll want to measure your steps in a normal day. Try not to make any changes whatsoever—just forget it is even there. Then, just before bed, write down your number. You may be surprised in a good or bad way. This is the perfect opportunity to set a goal. For the average healthy adult, it is reasonable to aim for 7,000 to 8,000 steps per day. If this seems really high, you can work up to it quite easily. Taking a 30-minute brisk walk can add around 3,000 steps. You can also opt for the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from the door than you're used to, or walk to get the mail rather than stopping by in your car. These small changes can add up quickly to make a great impact on your health.
Once you have reached your goal, take a moment to celebrate. Let it sink in, and give yourself a pat on the back—or even a piece of cake! Then, get right back on track and set a new goal. Improvement is about making constant changes. Once you reach 8,000 steps, up the ante and aim for 10,000. Before you know it, you'll be exceeding that goal, too.
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