Lately, research studies show that you can still be fit even with low or moderate intensity exercises. One of the most popular and favored exercises among my co-nurses and patients is simply walking.
But there is an art to walking.
To maximize the many benefits from your walk, keep in mind the following:
Walk with attitude: In other words, walk proudly (not slouched). You want to maintain good posture with your chest up, back neutral, and maintain alignment from your head to your toes. Walking with good posture keeps your joints healthy and prevents potential injuries–anywhere from your knees to your lower back.
One of my favorite books on correct walking posture is Chi Walking by Danny & Katherine Dreyer. Danny Dreyer’s book was what introduced me to the principles of body awareness, proper body alignment, and the concept of “listening to your body.” Take the time to read through the book — it is an excellent read!
Walk with awareness: During your usual walk, it may be common to turn on the music and get lost in the tunes. But once in a while, silencing your devices and just paying attention to your surroundings can keep you focused, aware, and help you manage symptoms of stress or anxiety. A fancy way to put this is mindful walking.
Walk with a friend: There is research that shows that socializing with others can activate the effects of the “love hormone” oxytocin and overall contribute to you feeling happier and more motivated. It can be a more healthy alternative as opposed to eating out or watching a movie, all the while giving plenty of opportunity to catch up (while keeping those phones silenced!).
Walk whenever you can–even for a few minutes: A general exercise guideline created by The American College of Sports Medicine comes from their 2011 article in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal: Adults must try to get in at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise (or at least 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise). HOWEVER, these guidelines are not set in stone. The article also states that getting in less exercise time than recommended–for whatever reason–will still provide health benefits. Also, walking for frequent, short bouts over the course of the day (i.e. in-between moments of sedentary activities like watching TV) can still help you gain heart healthy benefits!
So remember, don’t just walk. Get the best out of your walk by walking with awareness, purpose, and most importantly–attitude.
American College of Sports Medicine: http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/news-releases/2011/08/01/acsm-issues-new-recommendations-on-quantity-and-quality-of-exercise
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2011): http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx