With the prevalence of office jobs, cars, and our general sedentary lifestyle, many people do not go for regular walks even though they have been proven to be beneficial to our overall health.
While walking is often not considered to be an exercise, it can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and strengthen your bones and muscles just like other, more strenuous, forms of movement. Regular walks can also lower your stress levels and improve your mood and sleep.
According to new research, "the average Luxembourger spends half of the day sitting".
So let's get to it!
DO walk at a brisk pace. In order to be beneficial for your pulmonary and cardiovascular health, it is essential that you don’t simply stroll on your walk but instead maintain a brisk pace that increases your heart rate. Your speed depends on your fitness levels, but generally, a brisk pace is considered to be around 4.8 km/h (3 mph). Your phone’s health app often gives you access to this information, and the NHS website advises that ‘you’re walking briskly if you can still talk but cannot sing the words to a song’.
DON’T focus on the step count. You might have heard that we should aim for 10.000 steps a day, but the number emerged from a marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer in the 1960s. Walking already has substantial benefits after roughly 7000 steps and targets cardiovascular health after only 5000. Especially at the beginning, any amount of walking is better than no walking, so try to simply increase your step count instead of reaching a specific number; you can always set higher goals later. You can track your steps with various fitness trackers, digital watches, or your phone (which is slightly more unreliable but still gives you a good estimate).
DO listen to music or a podcast. To make a walk more enjoyable and distract yourself from the effort, put on headphones and listen to your favourite songs or a gripping podcast. This works well if you often get bored when walking a familiar route, and the music can help you keep up a nice walking rhythm. Just make sure that you can still hear what’s going on in your surroundings, so you’re not surprised by things like ambulances passing by.
DON’T keep walking on the same route. Sometimes even the best podcast can’t distract you when you get bored on your daily route. To avoid losing motivation, keep mixing it up, go for walks in different places and explore various parks, forests, or country lanes. You never know what exciting itineraries you might find in your area.
DO go for walks with a friend. Going for a walk with a friend is a great way to catch up while spending time outdoors and getting some movement. As walking is not as strenuous as running, you should still be able to talk comfortably. Like listening to something, walking together makes it more exciting and has the additional benefit of giving you personal support and motivation.
DON’T see it as a chore. Rather than seeing going for a walk as something you have to add to your life, try to incorporate it into activities you are already doing. This can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the lift or walking to the shops instead of driving there. I know this is not possible for everyone, so just try your best to include regular short walks into your routine. Again, any amount of walking is better than no walking.
DO wear appropriate footwear. While you might not have to get your hiking boots out for a daily walk, you should still try to wear comfortable, lightweight shoes that give you enough support. These might not be the most stylish pair, but your feet will thank you for wearing them. If you decide to walk to work, you can always pack smarter shoes and change in the office.
DON’T slouch. Maintaining good posture is essential if you want to get any benefits out of your walking. Be careful to keep a straight back without leaning forward or backwards, don’t look down and keep a straight gaze to protect your neck. If you usually, perhaps even involuntarily, slouch, this might feel strange at first, but in the end, it will prevent muscle strains and improve your walking pattern