January is a traditional time to adopt healthy habits. Some people enjoy New Year’s resolutions. For others, the start of the year offers a clean slate.
If you’ve been sedentary during the pandemic, walking may help you meet your physical-activity goals. Weight loss is aided by burning more calories than you eat each week.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly. Only a fraction of adults meet this goal, and people have been less active this year. Many have witnessed the “COVID-10” in weight gain.
Walking can lower your risk of heart disease, obesity and depression. It’s the most accessible form of exercise: You can do it anywhere, without special equipment.
Here are five reasons to walk:
You can tailor it to your lifestyle
You don’t need to learn new skills, and people of all fitness levels and body sizes can participate.
Walking can launch a fitness journey. If you can only go to the end of your block before getting tired, do that every day. Eventually, you’ll walk farther and faster.
You can do it year-round
It may be inadvisable when knee-deep in snow, but when it’s safe, bundle up and walk. The physical activity will help warm you and may slim you some.
Walking in enclosed spaces isn’t currently ideal during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you have access to a safe, spacious, ventilated space, consider walking there in your mask. Otherwise, create a walking circuit at home, going room to room, up and down stairs, or use a home treadmill.
You can manage your weight
People often put on weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and many people have gained weight during the pandemic. Walking may help you kickstart a weight-loss regimen.
Sneak walking into your day. (Try parking far from store entrances.) People who live in “Blue Zones” — communities around the world where diet and exercise habits help people live the longest — incorporate walking into their lifestyles, which helps them stay trim, healthy and reach old age.
Work up to a brisk pace
Walking is better exercise if you warm up slowly and push your pace. Two steps a second is roughly a goal for a brisk tempo. If you have heart disease risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, or known heart disease, be sure to check with your doctor on how these factors are controlled and get your doctor’s OK beforehand to push your pace.
You can boost your mood
Feel like being a couch potato until spring? Pushing yourself to walk may benefit your mental health.
When you exercise, your body produces feel-good hormones called endorphins that make you happier. Sunshine can also lift your mood. Take advantage of sunny days, and walk to help ward off depression.
When to walk
Most people tell their doctors that they don’t have time to exercise, but even busy people can find time. Try taking two or three short walks to hit 30+ minutes per day, even if working from home:
- during your lunch hour or on work breaks, to clear your mind
- after meals, to help your body digest and regulate blood-sugar levels
- when you’re feeling down, to boost endorphins and improve mood
If you want to adopt healthy lifestyle habits in 2021, a healthcare professional can help you identify goals to help you live happier and healthier. At Doctor On Demand, our board-certified physicians, psychologists and psychiatrists are available 7 days a week for video visits.