Technology has made a lot of things easier. If you need to buy something, order it online. If you need to get somewhere, just drive your car.
What this also means is that Americans are walking and moving less. This is one of many factors leading to the ever-increasing waistlines in our country. And even if you haven’t been gaining weight, moving less can contribute to heart disease and other health issues.
If you want to add some more activity into your daily schedule, walking is one of the easiest things to do. As the American Heart Association points out, it’s easy, safe, and absolutely free! If walking 30 minutes a day seems daunting, set smaller goals and work toward that 30 minutes gradually. Find a way that motivates you, whether it’s in the morning on your own, walking with a friend on your lunch break, or taking the dog on a walk every night.
If you have questions about starting a walking program, talk to your physical therapist. She can create a walking program to help you get moving. Use our locator below to find a Physiquality therapist in your neighborhood.
Walking after meals is particularly beneficial, says Libbie Chen. A physical therapist at Coury and Buehler Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in California), Libbie explains that a postprandial walk can boost your metabolism and encourage digestion by increasing the rate at which food moves through your stomach. This can lower your blood sugars and triglicerides, leading to a healthier heart and weight loss.
The Mayo Clinic has some tips that can maximize your daily walk.
Keep your focus forward and your head up, rather than looking at the ground.
- Relax your upper body and avoid stiffening your back, but be sure to keep your back straight rather than hunched over or arched backward. (This should also activate your ab muscles, which will help strengthen them.)
Walk smoothly, making sure to place each foot from heel to toe.
Don’t jump to your fastest pace – warm up by walking slowly at the beginning, and cool down by slowing your pace as you wrap up your walk.
One of the best things about walking for exercise is that there are plenty of ways to add variety to your routine or to increase the level of exertion, notes Polar, a Physiquality partner vendor. Choosing a walking route that includes hills will challenge your legs and stamina; choosing one with a beautiful view may help you extend the walk and stick to it.
You can also up the ante by adding some variety to your walk. If you walk in the park and there are benches, Polar suggests doing tricep dips or step-ups to add resistance. Or simply quicken your pace for 30 seconds, then slow down to your regular pace for two minutes. If you have a heart rate or calorie monitor like those from Polar, or a pedometer, you can use those to set goals for calories burned or steps taken, increasing your goals every two weeks to improve your fitness.
Thank you to our contributors:
Libbie Chen, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at Coury and Buehler Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member with six locations in Orange County, California. A basketball player, she is fascinated by the intricacies of the human body and enjoys the art and science of physical therapy and its effects of helping others. She believes that the combination of providing individualized therapy, patient education, and communication are essentials to improving functional outcome and quality of life.
Physiquality partner Polar is the innovator in heart rate monitoring, activity and sleep tracking, and GPS sports training solutions for elite athletes, coaches and active fitness enthusiasts. For over 40 years, Polar has helped athletes understand, track and improve their performance. Polar’s award-winning product range includes pioneering sports wearables that work elegantly with Polar training apps and cloud services.
American Heart Association.
- Walk, don’t run, your way to a healthy heart. December 14, 2017.
- Get moving: Easy tips to get active. Updated July 26, 2016.
Chen, Libbie. The benefits of walking after meals. Coury and Buehler Physical Therapy, October 16, 2017.
Turner, Brooke. Walk into fitness: Walking workouts with Polar ambassador Brooke. Polar USA, September 28, 2017.
Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health. Mayo Clinic, March 19, 2016.
How exercise can prevent disease. Physiquality, June 2, 2014.
Pomerance Berl, Rachel. Why we’re so fat: What’s behind the latest obesity rates. U.S. News and World Report, August 16, 2012.
Chappell, Bill. Americans do not walk the walk, and that’s a growing problem. NPR, April 16, 2012.
5 surprising benefits of walking. Healthbeat, Harvard Medical School.