Walk Your Way to Fitness

The health benefits of moderate exercise are well known, and walking is one of the easiest ways for people of all ages to achieve them. Research shows that walking briskly for a total of 150 minutes a week – in bouts of as little as 10 minutes – can help you to:

  • Lose weight
  • Get rid of belly fat
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease
  • Improve your mood
  • Increase your creativity

Knowing all the good that walking can do isn’t always enough to push you out the door or onto the treadmill, though. The trick is to incorporate a way to make those steps more fun and interesting so you’ll actually look forward to your walks. Whether you’re a technology junkie or more of an “analog” type, we’ve got just the inspiration you need. Feel free to mix and match.

Walk Your Way to Fitness

For the More Tech-minded:

  • Tune in (or tune out) while you walk. Sometimes all it takes to put one foot in front of the other is a pair of…earphones. Listen to some classical music to help melt away the day’s stress, or pick up the pace with a bit of funk or heavy metal. If you enjoy learning on the run (or on the walk, as the case may be), download podcasts or nonfiction audiobooks. For a temporary escape, try taking along some fiction.The quality of your earphones will affect your listening and walking pleasure. Be sure to select ones that are sweatproof and comfortable and won’t fall out of your ears. Wireless earphones designed for fitness, like Relays Sport Wireless earphones or the highly rated but costlier Jabra Elite Sport wireless earbuds, are generally less cumbersome. The right carrying solution for your smartphone is important, too. Some of our favorites include the Smartphone Armband, the Gaiam Smartphone Fitness Hand Wrap and the Run&Relax Running Belt.
  • Take in a show. It’s amazing how visual stimulation can make an otherwise dull activity a bit more interesting. Rather than sitting on the couch binge-watching your favorite show, use your addiction to your advantage. Watch while you walk – on a treadmill, that is – and don’t stop until you’ve watched at least one entire episode. If movies are more to your liking, you may have to divide your viewing over several workouts. (But please, no popcorn!)Hungry for adventure? Check out the collection of videos at Virtual Walks to turn your treadmill workouts into walks all over the world.
  • Count your steps. In the old days, you had to clip a pedometer onto your belt to measure the number of steps you’d walked. These days, there are a multitude of free smartphone apps that will do the same thing plus a whole lot more. For example, Stepz is specifically designed to work with products that have the Apple Motion Coprocessor (iPhones and Apple Watch). Google Fit, an Android app, tracks steps as well as other activities. Accupedo is available for both Android and iOS, and it comes in a free or upgraded (ad-free) version. Although research has shown that counting steps does get people to walk more, remember that you need to walk briskly for those steps to matter most.

Measure and map your miles. If you’re more concerned with mapping your routes than counting your steps, look for apps that use your phone’s GPS system to track your distance and guide your direction. Walkmeter is one such app. Available for both Android and iPhone smartphones, it not only enables you to map walks and hikes, it also helps you train for distance. MapMyWalk, one of a number of similar apps offered by MapMyFitness, is also available for both platforms. Along with mapping your routes, you can connect with a large community of other walkers.

Walk Your Way to Fitness

For Nontechies:

  • Make a walking date. Instead of going out for dinner or drinks, make your weekly date with friends or your significant other a walk instead. You could plan to meet at a park after work or to walk around the neighborhood following a light dinner at home.Keep it simple, but don’t be afraid to change up your routine to add variety. For example, a group of friends could take turns choosing a trail. Or you and your spouse could walk along different streets each evening. You could even alternate between walking outdoors and walking at a gym with side-by-side treadmills.
  • Plan a family hike. Reserve one weekend morning each week for everyone in your family to walk together. Be sure to pick a location that meets the needs of young and old, such as a lake where older members can rest on benches, the younger set can run ahead and everyone can enjoy feeding the ducks.
  • Take a walk on the wild side. Spotting animals at a preserve or reaching an overlook just before sunset are the kinds of rewards that can make you forget you’re even exercising. Plan to walk in scenic areas according to the rhythms of nature. Blossoming trees, eagle activity and autumn foliage are just some seasonal activities that can make even a strenuous walk worthwhile.
  • Join a walking group or tour. Walking with a group has so many advantages. For one thing, you get to meet new people who also want to walk. Additionally, knowing that a walk is scheduled for a set time prevents you from procrastinating, especially if you’ve already enrolled and others are depending on you to show up.Walking tours are generally based on a theme, such as scenes in a movie or TV show, historic locations or outdoor artwork. You can even plan your vacation around walking tours with organizations like Macs Adventures and The Natural Adventure, which offer self-guided tours in Europe and other parts of the world, or Backroads and Country Walkers, which provide all-inclusive guided tours.

It’s never too late to take your first step toward fitness. So grab a friend, grab your smartphone and don’t forget your sneakers!

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