How to start a walking routine
Sometimes exercise is the last thing you feel like doing some days. While it can be hard to find the time to lace up your shoes and walk a kilometre or even around the block, exercise can almost always do your body and mind some serious good, even if you’re not feeling up to it. “There is evidence that people who exercise receive mental health benefits and also seem to respond better to stress,” says Melissa Markofski, PhD, assistant professor, of the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston. Here’s how to motivate yourself to start a walking routine.
Stroll outside, with friends
As long as you practice social distancing, physical activity can help you get through these stressful times. “One of the benefits of walking with a person or a group is that it can be easier to show up if there is someone waiting for us,” says Markofski. “Many people find they get benefits from the social aspects of group exercise – making connections with people doing the same activity as us.” Exercise like walking also strengthens muscles and bones, increases energy and improves cardiovascular fitness and brain function. According to a 2019 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, replacing 30 minutes of sedentary time with physical activities can even extend your life.
Boost the intensity
Upping your walking pace from slow to moderate can increase your kilojoule burn and boost the health benefits, says physical therapist Alison Chang. There are several ways to do that. First, try the “talk test,” she says: “If you can talk but not sing [while walking], you are engaged in moderate-intensity activity.” To rev up your metabolism, try alternating between 100 and 130 steps per minute to take advantage of the benefits of interval training and burn more kilojoules. “Be mindful of your posture and practice diaphragmatic breathing during brisk walking to further enhance the cardiopulmonary benefits of fitness walking,” she adds.