Many of us can probably admit: We don’t exercise as much as we’d like to…or as much as we should. But in the midst of a busy schedule—work, family, friends, education, extracurricular activities—a daily (even a weekly) workout is likely to take a backseat. But over time, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a host of health problems including cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoarthritis, and even mental health and cognitive issues. Exercise is something we can all do for better health.
The good news is that you don’t need a fancy gym or equipment to get active. Walking is one of the easiest ways to get started with exercise or just begin to move more. It’s low-impact, so it’s easy on your joints, and only requires a pair of sneakers to get started.
Walking offers several health benefits, too, including improved aerobic fitness, mental health and cognitive function; a lower risk of high blood pressure and stroke; stronger bones; a reduction on arthritis symptoms; and increased joint mobility.
For optimal health, the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. This breaks down to 30 minute walks, five days per week. But if that seems daunting, you can break it down even further to three, 10-minute blocks of walking per day.
Just like most exercise routines, the hardest part can be getting started. Here are a few things you can do to help make your walk a little more fun:
- Download and listen to a podcast series. Each podcast is typically 30 minutes to an hour long, so promise yourself to walk for one episode or part of an episode per day. Audiobooks are another option.
- Enlist an online (or offline!) friend to keep you accountable. Apps like Fitbit, Nike+, Stridekick, Lose It! and MyFitnessPal allow you to challenge someone you know in person or someone you meet via the app to online challenges. Knowing that you earn bragging rights from getting the most steps can help motivate you to take the long way to your car or get out for a stroll at lunch.
- Join a local walking group or find a gym buddy. Having someone who accompanies you on your walk can help you stay accountable.
- Make your walks a strict no technology time. Instead of bringing your phone or a music player with you, allow yourself a half hour at the beginning or end of every day to decompress and reflect. You may end up looking forward to some quiet time. You might also consider making it family time and everyone can chat about their day.
- Schedule a walking meeting at work. Instead of grabbing a conference room or a coffee, ask your colleague if they’d be up for a walking meeting. It’ll give you a reason to get out of the office and enjoy nature views, too.
Main Line Health offers a number of programs to help its employees and communities walk for wellness. Lankenau Medical Center offers an on-campus walking trail for employees and visitors. Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital offers a program to help people re-learn walking or fine tune their gait after suffering a debilitating injury. We also offer Prescribe-a-Trail community walks. These free events are hosted by our community health teams and include a trail walk during which a doctor or clinician presents on a health topic. Examples of topics include picking the right walking shoes, preventing Lyme disease and hydration tips.
To learn more about starting an exercise routine that’s right for you, make an appointment with a Main Line Health primary care provider or call 866-225-5654.