Daily Walks a Step Forward to Better Health

Now that spring is finally here, most people can’t wait to get outside. The warmer weather also has some people looking to reboot their New Year’s resolution to get more exercise since swimsuit season is around the corner. That combination makes the season the perfect time to begin a walking program.

Walking is a great, low-impact exercise that anyone can do. Regular walks and exercise can greatly improve your health. Studies show walking can reduce your chances of having a stroke or heart attack while strengthening your muscles and bones, lowering your risk for osteoporosis. And when combined with better eating habits, a regular walking routine can also help you lose weight. Walking is the easiest form of exercise. You don’t need fancy equipment -- just a pair of shoes and a place to walk. It’s also simple to do.

As you get started, take it slow. You’re not going to walk a 5k or 3 miles that first time out. Plan a route that will take you about 20 minutes to complete – maybe walk out 10 minutes from your home and then turn around and come back. As you get stronger, add time and distance.

We all know how to walk, but when you’re walking for exercise, keep your head up and your neck and shoulders relaxed. You may want to swing your arms a little bit, too, as you go. Walk in a smooth motion, rolling your foot from heel to toe.

While I did say walking didn’t require a lot of fancy equipment, it is important you have shoes with good support. Also, make sure you are visible to passing vehicles so wear reflective or bright clothing especially if you’re walking at night, early morning or at dusk.

Plan your walking route in advance – make sure there is room on the shoulder of the road or find sidewalks. Be on the lookout for any potholes or other indentations that could possibly make you stumble.

It’s ideal to get 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day. If you’re too busy to get in a full 30-minute walk, look for three 10-minute blocks in your day. I know some people who use their walks as a time to catch up with a friend, child or spouse. You can visit while getting in some valuable exercise.

Going for a daily walk is a great way to start you on the path to better health.

Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at scott.schuldes@thedacare.org.