Health is a daily commitment. To build better health, regular physical activity, quality rest, regular hydration, and sunlight are critical. The choice to walk 10,000 steps a day is a great platform on which to build better health habits. It also helped me to turn my life around. If you are not an active person, please make sure to start with small steps. Don’t go from one day to another with a big change. Do it slowly but consistently. Start with 5,000 steps, or even less, let’s say 3,000. Don’t rush to increase. After some time, your body (and mind) will ask for more. And trust me, if you keep doing this for a few months, you will feel much better and also start adding some exercise to your walking routine.
Here are some facts:
Getting out and walking 10,000 steps every day can lower your risk of heart disease (link to mayoclinic.org). By pushing your body enough to move it through space at a regular pace, you build better heart muscle strength and increase your heart’s capacity to move blood around your body. Walking can also suppress your appetite.
By breaking up your steps (link to fourwellness.co) on a daily basis, you can lose weight. For example, you can take an early morning walk with your dogs and enjoy coffee, whole grain toast and fruit for breakfast. Mid-morning, have yogurt with some granola before walking up and down a couple of flights of stairs. Walk to your lunch destination with a friend and enjoy both the chance to stretch your legs and get away from work thoughts. Skip that afternoon candy bar and take a bottle of water on a walk around the building. Change unhealthy eating habits for a quick walk for a double-whammy to help you in your weight loss goals.
Whether you’re walking alone, with a pet or with a friend, make sure you take a bottle of water. When you stop at a stoplight or to enjoy the view, drink. Consciously stop to drink something at different points on your walk so you can stay hydrated, build cardiac strength, tighten your core muscles and strengthen your bones with weight-bearing exercise.
If you’ve been working from home, there can be challenges to scheduling out your day outside of work tasks and Zoom meetings. Start your day with a walk when the sidewalks are quiet to clear your head. Mask up and walk over lunch to stretch your body and think about an involved project. When the workday ends, take a walk with a friend or a pet so you can plan for the evening or mull over a personal or professional challenge.
Walking is a habit. We learned it quite a while ago. When you engage in habits, you free up your mind for creative problem-solving in ways that may surprise you.
There’s a reason we have “aha!” moments in the shower. Showering is also a habit; we don’t have to think, so our brains are free to run around and fix other things. If you’re struggling with a task or a situation that is really eating at you, put it in the mental computer before you go on your walk and see what answers pop up. Not only have you freed up your creative brain by engaging in a habit, but your mood will be higher, so formerly insurmountable problems can actually turn out to just be challenges that you have the power to do something about.
Even if you’re not feeling all that bad, many of us are struggling with uncertainty and other challenges during this tumultuous time. By the end of a brisk walk, you may have
- figured out how to handle a problem
- hydrated your body
- greeted someone who was having a tougher day than you were
- found a great price on fresh fruit
The possibilities are endless. By getting out and keeping your eyes open, you have the chance to improve your life and lift someone else’s spirits. A 20-minute walk can reset a bad day and enhance a great day.
Sunlight is critical to great health, but sunbathing can be very bad for your skin. Mask up, and use sunblock on exposed skin, but do your best to enjoy some sunlight every day. Your best chance for quality sunlight is at midday (link to HealthLine.com). The darker your skin, the more sunlight you will need for the best absorption. Stop on your walk and do some stretches. Turn your face to the light for a time. Breathe deeply and relax.
While you’re walking, work on your core strength. You can do controlled isometric exercises as you stride. Pull your navel toward your belly button and hold this for 10 seconds, then release. Tighten up your glutes for 100 steps, then release. Work to lengthen your stride to keep your hip flexors loose, and stop to stretch your hips, legs and low back halfway through your walk as appropriate.
Better Quality Rest
Walking in the morning light reminds your body that it’s really day. Because many of us spend time in the company of screens that can scramble our circadian rhythms, morning light can prep your body for alertness and wakefulness. A quick walk after lunch can settle your meal, allow you to feel full without overeating, give you the best chance of boosting your Vitamin D levels, and prep your brain for the afternoon. If you get the chance to walk at sunset, your brain will start to wind down and help you fall asleep more deeply and stay there.
If you struggle to find the time to exercise, get up just 20 minutes earlier and walk as the sun is rising. Bring a good pair of walking shoes to the office and slip them on at lunchtime. Get out and enjoy some exercise and midday light. Finally, take a walk to wind down at the end of the day.