WALK! It's National Walking Day

Happy National Walking Day!  Today (April 4) is a holiday, so go ahead and walk when you'd otherwise not.  Park a little further, make multiple trips to and from the car, make the effort to get up and move when it seems like an option.  Walk to work, to school, to the store.  Walk your dog, walk off your lunch, walk to clear your mind.  Whether you're a proud couch potato or a triathlete, just dipping your toes into fitness or a regular gym rat, I dare you, quite simply, to take a walk.

Why walk?
According to the American Heart Association, walking for at least 30 minutes a day can help you reduce your risk of osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer, coronary heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. It can also help you improve blood pressure, blood sugar levels, blood lipid profile, and your mental well being.  Plus, we all know it helps maintain body weight and lower risk of obesity.

"Why We Walk"

How to get started?
     It's pretty simple: just walk.  You do it daily anyway, to a lesser or greater extent (with the exception of people with mobility disabilities), so why not do it for the exercise, or to clear your mind and get some fresh air!  It's an exercise that we all know how to do, and we all have access to the great outdoors.  You can walk on a treadmill, but just going up and down your street will do, as well!  Maybe your town has a nice park or trail; finding a nice walking path can make your walk a pleasurable experience.  I know that I prefer to walk or run in a scenic, outdoor area over going in circles in my own neighborhood or around a track.
     Find friends: If you're looking for social motivation, ask a buddy to join you on scheduled walks.  You can also join or start your own walking club.
     Begin with short distances (5-10 minutes of walking) and work your way up each week.  Figure out what works better for you: short distances a few times per day or one long 40-60 minute walk.
     Be aware of your posture and breath.  Keep your head up and relax your shoulders. Walk naturally.  Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. You should remain able to carry on a conversation.
    Track your progress, based on time, distance, steps... whatever is accessible and motivating for you!
    Be safe.  Wear reflective gear if walking at night. Be aware of your surroundings. Always tell someone where you are walking. Always carry identification.

Tools:
  • Sneakers. If you're ready to establish a walking or running routine, it's a good idea to invest in some quality sneakers. This will help you avoid injury and keep your feet, legs, and spine happy. 
  • Pedometer.  Although I love my Garmin, you don't need GPS to track your mileage.  A pedometer is a great way to measure how far you're walking; aim for more steps each time!  It's recommended that everyone walk at least 10,000 steps per day.  Do you think you're there yet? 
  • Music player or iPod. This can help pass the time if walking isn't something you find particularly enjoyable (yet!).  Go ahead and fill it up with some good music, OR you can download interesting podcasts and audiobooks to do some learning or "reading" on your walk. 
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses.  Skin health is important, too!
See my post "Become a Runner: Part 3"  for more tips for how to get started walking and running. 

So I dare you to Take a walk!  Encourage your friends, family, and coworkers to join in!  To promote National Walking Day in your community, check out the American Heart Association's Toolkit. Happy walking!

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