Walking can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Walking can lower your risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, blood pressure and other diseases. Walking can help you lose weight and keep it off. Do these messages about the power of walking sound like a broken record? They probably do. According to America on the Move, a national group that promotes walking, two-thirds of American adults don’t get 30 minutes a day of physical activity. And, one-fourth of American adults aren’t active at all. You may already know it’s a wise health move to walk more. You may have even tried to start a walking program in the past. But it’s hard to get started and even harder to keep going. The key to success is to take it one step at a time.
Research shows that walking an extra 2,000 steps a day, which equals about one mile, can help you prevent weight gain and lose weight. You also get other benefits from regular activity: a better response to your body’s insulin, lower blood pressure, lower blood glucose, improved blood lipids (fats), more energy and less stress.
ADD STEPS GRADUALLY
If you are not very active now and want to be, there are two steps you can take to get started. The first is to figure out how to fit in a 5- or 10-minute walk into your day. Can you walk before your morning shower, during your coffee break, after lunch or while you watch the evening news? The second is to think about your usual day and figure out how to take more steps as part of your daily routine. Can you take the stairs instead of an elevator? Can you park farther away from where you work, shop or do errands?
Once you have started taking a short walk most days and taking more steps in your daily life, you can start to add on. You can do this by taking longer walks or by taking two or three short walks a day instead of one. Work your way up to a total of 30 minutes of walking on most days.
Set your goals based on the number of steps you take when you start. Then choose a realistic number of steps to add for your first goal. A realistic goal, if you don’t get much activity now, is 2,000 steps a day. That’s not too difficult. In fact, you likely get this many steps, or more, each day just by going through your usual routine. Your long term goal should be 10,000 steps, or about 5 miles, a day. A good way to keep track of the steps you take is to use a pedometer.