Stay Fit, Don’t Sit: The many benefits of walking
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Published on April 14, 2016

woman walking outdoors with her dog

Stay Fit, Don’t Sit: The many benefits of walking

Just like a car, your body has an idle speed – a basal metabolic index. If you can increase your body’s RPM, even from a 1 to a 2, your body burns more calories, more efficiently.

“It’s simply the difference between sitting and walking,” said Preston Renshaw, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Avera Health Plans. “Walking is a very easy, simple way to boost your metabolism.”

Potential weight loss is just one benefit. There’s also prevention of disease – heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and cancer to name a few – and keeping your joints and muscles limber and functioning well.

“When you’re sitting, you don’t have any muscles engaged. The more you sit, the more deconditioned you become. Anytime you can walk or even stand during the day, you’re doing your body a tremendous favor,” Renshaw disease, stroke, high blood pressure and cancer to name a few – and keeping your joints and muscles limber and functioning well.

“Walking impacts your whole circle of well-being,” said Debbie Lancto, Health and Wellness Champion at Avera Health Plans.

Tracy Yorek has always enjoyed walking and running, however, she found it hard to be consistent, especially during the winter months. A 100-miles-in-100-days challenge at her workplace motivated her to get back on track. At the same time, she started to eat healthier, for example, replacing ranch dressing with vinaigrette. “I lost 14 pounds over just a few months.”

To maintain a healthy weight, Tracy continues to run and walk regularly, and watch what she eats. As a counselor at Volunteers of America in Sioux Falls, she incorporates walking in her day as much as possible. “If it’s a nice day, I’ll go for a walk with a client or a coworker. It’s a lot more fun to walk with someone and keep each other accountable.”

Walking: fun, easy and free

Walking is a great stress reliever, and it can be a good social outlet if you walk with others, Lancto said. “It’s easy to do, it’s fun and it’s free.”

For all the above reasons, take as many steps as you can throughout the day. Wearing a fitness tracker or pedometer helps you realize just how many – or how few – steps you take each day. A worthy goal is 10,000 steps per day.

If you want to lose weight, and it’s not happening, it’s also important to look at diet. Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day. Non-processed, natural foods are best. Choose complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, over simple carbs. This strategy keeps enough “fuel in the tank” to keep your metabolism going, but not so much that you’re adding pounds.

Don’t starve yourself. “Then you tend to overeat and make bad choices,” Lancto said. Also, starving yourself signals to your body that there’s a shortage of food, and your metabolism will slow down, having the opposite effect.

“People don’t realize how active they could be,” Renshaw said. “Making some simple changes in diet and daily activity can set you up to lose weight without thinking too much about it.”

Make walking a central part of your day:

  • Start off on the right foot by taking a brisk, 10-15 minute walk in the morning. It’s worth getting up a few minutes earlier.
  • Save yourself the frustration of looking for a close parking spot, and park farther away.
  • Walk to another office or cubicle, rather than sending an email.
  • DON’T eat lunch at your desk. “You need a mental break from your work. That’s why they call it a lunch break,” Renshaw said. Spend 15 to 20 minutes of your lunch hour walking.
  • Take a walk after work, or engage in some other exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week.
  • Play with your kids when you get home – hide and seek, tag or catch, or go for a bike ride.
  • Don’t dread your chores. Working in the kitchen, doing laundry, vacuuming, and taking out the trash all add steps to your day.

How Many Steps?

Briskly walking (3.5 mph) = 115 steps per minute. A 30-minute walk is 3,450 steps

Steps per minute for other activities:

  • Racewalking – 197
  • Aerobic dance – 197
  • Bicycling – 242
  • Bowling – 91
  • Cooking – 61
  • Gardening – 121
  • House cleaning – 91
  • Hunting – 152
  • Jogging – 212
  • Shopping – 70
  • Stairmaster – 273
  • Swimming laps – 212
  • Weight lifting – 121
  • Yoga – 76

Source: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise

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