Wednesday March 8th is national Walk2Work day here in New Zealand. This is a great opportunity for us all to think about how we could include more steps in our daily lives.
With it now being possible to have your dinner, clothing, home wares and weekly grocery shopping all delivered to you while you sit on the couch, it is not surprising that we are increasingly more sedentary than ever before in human history. All of this has impacts on your physical, mental and social health. This is where something as simple as walking can help.
Here at Healthbox we are big advocates for adding more steps into your day, any way you can. And the best thing about walking is that while it is good for you, it is also great for your wallet and great for our environment too.
Read on to hear our top tips for walking more from our resident Clinical Exercise Physiologist, Cara Blanchard.
Walking Tip #1 - The benefits of more movement
Walking is a natural human movement and, despite its simplicity, it packs a health punch. Getting your step count up can help reduce your risk of all these common health problems:
High blood pressure
For good health, it is recommended that we do at least 150 minutes of exercise each week, or 30 minutes five times per week. Walking is an easy, cost effective way to achieve this level of physical activity.
Walking Tip #2 - Move for your mind
We know that all kinds of regular physical activity are beneficial for our brains. What's cool is that walking outside is an option that comes with added benefits over and above other forms of exercise. When we walk outside, we take in all sorts of things – like birdsong, seasonal changes and interesting storefronts, and we get to interact with people and animals. Connecting to our environment and noticing what is around us can help improve our mental health and well being.
Walking outside in the morning light (before 10am) is also very beneficial for helping to reset our body's internal clock which controls our sleep wake cycle. This results in us sleeping better, which is also crucial for good mental well being.
Walking Tip #3 - Add extra steps to everyday events
The best way to create a new habit is to link the new activity to something that you already do - this way, you are less likely to forget about it after the first couple of weeks.
Have somewhere in your neighborhood that you routinely go, like the coffee shop or your children's school? Make a commitment to walk there instead of driving. Short distance car trips generate the most pollution per kilometer traveled - so reducing these is a win for you and a win for the environment!
Adding extra steps to your commute is another great way to do this - two classic examples are parking further away than normal, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. But, what about ditching driving all together? Not only is this better for our planet, but walking to and from the bus or train station will help you increase your step count.
10 minutes of walking in the morning and back again in the afternoon could add an extra 2500-3000 steps to your day!
If you're already using public transport, try getting off a couple stops earlier to rack up that step count!
Tip #4 - Walking in the right shoes
Whether you are adding in a lunchtime walk, or committing to a more active commute, it is important that you have the right shoes.
If you are going to be walking in 10 minute bursts throughout the day, then any supportive pair of flat shoes may do the trick. But, if you are planning on walking for more than 20 minutes at a time, then your best bet is to find a comfortable pair of walking or running shoes to ensure your feet, ankles, knees and hips are well supported as you stride.
If you wear shoes with a high heel, it would be best to swap these out for a comfortable, flat shoe that offers more support. Walking long distances in high heels could lead to aches and pains as they change the mechanics of how our body moves as we walk, and this can place excess strain on our calves, hips and lower backs.
Walking Tip #5 - Lace up your shoes this March!
Wednesday March 8th is national Walk2Work day. As the name implies, Walk2Work Day typically encourages people to add some walking to their commute to work, but now it also focuses on adding more walking to your day regardless of where you work.
Walk2Work day aims to shift our travel behaviour to more sustainable alternatives and capture the benefits for our health, the environment, and even work productivity.
So give it a go this March, and see how small changes to your daily routine can really add up.
Check out more about Walk2Work Day here: https://www.livingstreets.org.nz/node/5138