1 in 4 U.S. Adults Are Sedentary for Over 8 Hours Each Day—Here Are 5 Easy Ways to Walk More

Learn about the benefits of walking, tips to get you going and ways to increase your walking intensity.

<p>Getty Images</p>

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Reviewed by Dietitian Jessica Ball, M.S., RD

While walking often seems to be dismissed as an effective form of exercise by some, it actually has many benefits—from strengthening your heart and boosting your mood to improving blood sugar and reducing the risk of dementia.

The American Heart Association wants to help more people experience these benefits, which is why, since 2007, they have declared the first Wednesday of April to be National Walking Day, with this year’s tagline being “Walk More. Stress Less.” The main purpose of the campaign is to simply raise awareness of the benefits of moving more.

“Walking is a simple way to add more physical activity to your day, and the benefits go beyond physical health,” says Monik Jiménez, Sc.D., S.M., FAHA, an American Heart Association volunteer and instructor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a press release. “Getting the recommended amount of physical activity each week, which can be achieved through walking, is linked to a lower risk of diseases, stronger bones and muscles and improved mental health.”

According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the recommended amount of physical activity Jiménez is referring to is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week—plus two days a week of strength training.

Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Walk 10,000 Steps per Day

How to Add More Walking to Your Day

If you’re not getting anywhere near those goals, simply start where you are. Fifteen minutes a week is better than none—then go up from there. It’s also OK to split up your physical activity. For example, if you don’t have time to do 30 minutes all at once, do 10 minutes three times during the day.

Or maybe you’re a seasoned walker and are looking for ways to increase the difficulty of your walks. Of course, you could increase the speed of your stride, but if you’ve maxed out your walking mph, try adding hills—assuming you live in an area that has them. Or add Nordic walking poles to your walks. Did you know that you activate 90% of the muscles in your body by just adding poles? Interval walking is a fun way to up your intensity, too. I like using telephone poles as my markers. Alternate walking your normal pace for the distance between four telephone poles (or however many you choose to use), then increase your pace for four poles—and repeat the cycle.

If you’re recovering from an injury or just want a more chill walking workout, try walking meditation. Essentially, walking meditation is bringing your attention to your current state—feeling your feet touch the ground with each step, noticing your posture and how it feels to move your body. You can also use walking meditation to notice things in nature if you’re walking outside.

Want to participate in this year’s National Walking Day? The AHA provides some ways you can do so:

  • Ask colleagues, friends or family to join you.

  • If you work remotely, take a conference call on the go.

  • If you have a pet, get moving together! Walking is a win-win for the health of you and your pet.

  • Take a family stroll after dinner.

  • Share a picture on social media using #WalkingDay

Can’t get outside to walk thanks to the weather (hello, huge nor’easter)? Walking indoors counts too—and you don’t need a treadmill to do it. I work from home and take walking breaks throughout the day. When the weather isn’t conducive, I do “laps” inside my house. Sometimes I mix it up and do walking lunges, moving side squats, marching, skipping—it all counts. The main point is to just move more, so whether you post your #WalkingDay photos to your social feeds or not, reap all the benefits of walking by adding it to your daily routine.

Read the original article on Eating Well.