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Natural Awakenings

10 Ways to Feed a Walking Habit: Keep the Health Benefits Coming

Apr 01, 2010 03:00AM ● By Maggie Spilner

Recently, the American Podiatric Medical Association published a list of alternative activities for people who felt their walks were just too boring. While I agree that some variation in exercise is a plus for both mind and body, walking never needs to be boring or static.

A walk can be like an oasis in a hectic day or a mini-vacation when the world seems overwhelming. It can provide an exhilarating workout or a simple release of tension and a break from too much sitting. With such ongoing easy access to it and so little cost or hassle, a walk is too good of an exercise option to walk away from.

10 ways to make sure your walks keep you coming back for more

1 - Keep a pair of walking shoes and socks in your car. If you pass a tempting park or an alluring pathway during the day, stop, slip on your shoes and take a short stroll.

2 - Find a buddy and join in at least two walks a week. Regularly meeting with an activity-oriented friend is a good way to cement a relationship, both with the person and with walking.

3 - Boost fitness and fat burning with interval training. This simply means warming up, walking steadily and adding in increasingly long bursts of fast walking. This type of training increases endurance and cardiovascular fitness and burns more fat than steady walking alone can.

4 - Access hills at least one day a week. If you’re a flatlander, find some stadium stairs or another architectural feature to include in a walk.

5 - Find a waterway. A walk around a lake or along a river or canal is a pleasure. Taking in the greenery and watery reflections works to soothe the soul and reduce the effects of stress.

6 - Practice a meditative technique while walking. The natural, stress-reducing effect of a rhythmic walk, combined with meditation, can be especially soothing. It may be as simple as breathing in for four steps, then breathing out for four steps, keeping your mind focused on the steps or the breath and allowing other thoughts to pass. Or just count triplets; one, two, three; one, two, three—and you’re waltz walking.

7 - Try a pair of walking poles. You’ll burn extra calories and get a synergistic workout without the muscle strain that can occur from walking with weights.

8 - Head for town or for the mall. Sometimes, nature just isn’t calling and you may decide you’ll be more entertained window shopping. Walking the errands that you normally do by car can give a different perspective on your neighborhood; having a specific destination makes the walk seem more purposeful.

9 - Tunes and talks are an invigorating option. Download favorite tunes or a podcast or pick up a book on tape or a CD from the local library and listen while you walk. Just make sure you are in a place that’s safe from hazards and where you’re not alone; stay aware of your surroundings.

10 - Take your dog along. Few dogs say no to exercise. If your pet is a lousy walker, consider obedience training classes. There’s nothing quite like walking with a happily grinning, well-heeled dog.

 
Maggie Spilner has been writing about health and fitness for 25 years, including 17 as an editor at Prevention Magazine. Her books include Prevention’s Complete Book of Walking for Health and Walk Your Way Through Menopause. See www.WalkForAllSeasons.com for information on Spilner’s walking vacations.

WORKDAY WALKING TIPS:
-- Keep a pair of walking shoes at work and take 10- to 20-minute brisk walking breaks.

-- Map out a variety of walking routes to and around your place of employment.

-- Remember to count various inside routes via hallways and staircases.

-- Send documents to a printer that's not near your desk. Walk to a colleague’s office for a discussion, rather than sending email. Get off the bus or train one stop early and walk the rest of the way, or park in a distant lot.

-- Hold walking meetings with a coworker, so you can walk and talk.

-- Exercise first, then eat lunch, which encourages sensible eating.

-- Find out what works for you, understanding that your preferences may regularly change. 

Bonus tip: Stand while you’re on the phone, talking with a co-worker or even eating lunch; it burns more calories. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that mildly obese people sit, on average, two hours longer than those who are lean.

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