To promote and maintain health, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association writing group recommends that "all healthy adults aged 18 to 65 years need moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three days each week." Walking fits this recommendation of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, explains Julie Anderson, MPH, Manager of Health Promotion for Stanford's Health Improvement Program.
Do people underestimate the power of walking?
I think sometimes people think that if they're not really sweating or exercising for an hour, it's not worth it. However, even a few 10-minute walks around your building each day add up to something. For those who really enjoy walking, marathon walking has become very popular. At two of the biggest U.S. marathons, 40% of the entrants are now walkers.
How does walking compare with running?
For most people, walking is more enjoyable than running. You can get a great workout walking if you walk briskly and if you include some hills. Ever try walking the Dish? That's a great workout. You may not burn as many calories walking or you may not improve your cardiovascular system at the same rate as running, but you are putting less stress on your joints and you won't fatigue as quickly. Walking is a terrific form of exercise. For those who enjoy running, keep it up and enjoy other activities on non-running days.
How often should I walk and how far should I go?
The recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is to do a minimum of 30 minutes of walking or some type of moderate-intensity activity 5 days a week to promote and maintain health.
If you're trying to lose weight or have other specific goals in mind, you'll most likely need to increase the amount and/or intensity of your activity. Walking is an activity you can do every day. If you've been inactive for a while, start with shorter walks and increase your time gradually while you listen to your body. Sometimes people are gung ho and overdo it, paying the price the next day with sore feet or sore muscles.
Should I consider wearing a pedometer?
Yes. It's a great way to monitor your activity and to get immediate feedback. Let's say you are trying to increase your activity. Figure out your average number of steps for a week and then set a goal just a little bit higher than your average steps per day. You can then see how you're doing on your goal throughout your day. If you are nearing the end of the day and aren't close to your goal, maybe you'll be motivated to take an extra 15-minute walk to boost your steps.
Does it help to walk with someone else?
Research shows that people are more successful with behavior change and sticking to their goals if they have a support network in place to encourage them. Walking with a partner is a great idea to help keep you motivated. There are days when you won't feel like getting out for a lunchtime walk, but if your coworker is counting on you, you're more likely to follow through. Be creative and have a walking meeting with a colleague or use that time to catch up with a friend instead of sitting at a table eating lunch.
If I want to walk alone, at times I choose, is there a program that can help structure my efforts?
Yes. Consider joining the BeWell Walkers, an online walking program. The goal of this ten-week walking program is to gradually raise the level of physical activity you incorporate into your daily life. The program uses a simple pedometer, online tracking log, email coaching, step journal, tip sheets and campus walking maps. Designed to be done independently by all participants, BeWell Walkers does not require meeting at a scheduled time to walk. Learn more and sign up by logging into the EIP site of the BeWell website — then click on Berries followed by BeWell Walkers.
Any final thoughts?
Make it a healthy summer by staying active throughout your day at work and engage in some fun activities outside of work. There are great places to hike throughout the Bay Area. Here are two links for hiking trails:
Interview conducted by Julie Croteau and edited by Lane McKenna.