February Exercise of the Month: Tips For Getting Your Steps In
Kayla Thompson, MS, ACSM-EP
Walking is one of the simplest and most underrated activities. When someone mentions the word exercise to you, what comes to mind? Is it countless hours in a gym? Does it bring a shiver down your spine? Do you immediately check out? Exercise can look like spending hours in the gym, but it can also look like walking for ten minutes after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “regular brisk walking can help you maintain healthy weight and lose body fat, improve your mood, cognition, memory, and sleep, reduce stress and tension, improve cardiovascular fitness, increase energy levels, and strengthen your immune system.” Walking can do all of this and more if you are willing to give it a try. The other great news is that it can be done anywhere! Walking requires no great investment or equipment unless you want to track your steps.
If you have a means to track your steps, the best method to do this is by getting a baseline. You have to know where you are so you can know where you want to go. Spend a week getting your average step count and build from there. If you do not have the means to track your steps via a pedometer, smart watch, or smart phone, don’t fret! Begin with time. Start tracking it daily with minutes walked. You can start with ten minutes a day and build up from there.
Some things to note as you start your walking journey. First, walk with wisdom! Be aware of your surroundings and/or walk with a friend, especially when it’s dark out. Second, better health is a marathon, not a sprint. Listen to your body and progress as you can. Third, watch the weather. Walking in 100-degree temperatures with a heat index of 120 is not the best option. Plan your step routine around these conditions.
Getting in more steps can be fun and simple. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Try parking farther away from the entrance to your work or the store you are going to shop in. Walk down to grab lunch at a local spot near the office. Wake up ten minutes earlier to get in a walk before the day starts. Make a goal to walk for a certain amount of time after every meal. Walk laps at your local mall or another indoor area if the weather is bad. Find a friend and make it a challenge to see who can walk the most steps in two weeks or in a month. Put money on it or whoever loses has to buy lunch. Get your office mates involved in a step goal. If you have a meeting at work, see if it can be done while walking. Ask your employer if an incentive program can be started based on getting more steps. Have fun with it and know that each step is an opportunity for better health!
Kayla Thompson is a diabetes care navigator at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence and a certified
exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. She has a Master of Science in clinical exercise science.