This underrated movement has more health benefits than you can imagine.
Like many Americans living in a suburban area, my day-to-day life revolves around a car for transportation. From home to school to the grocery store to any place imaginable, the average commute relies primarily on this handy vehicle. Additionally, more people than ever work in offices from 9-to-5. However, with the rise of the automobile and desk jobs comes a significant tradeoff—the decline of walking in communities across America.
According to a Harvard Health report published in 2017, walking just 21 minutes a day not only reduces your risk of heart disease by 30%, but also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and keeps you “mentally sharp.” Despite these health benefits, only 53.3% of American adults meet the recommended national guidelines for physical activity, perhaps because of our relatively sedentary lifestyles nowadays. In order to meet or exceed this magic number everyday, Harvard Health suggests that busy people can fit in “quick one-minute jaunts” throughout their schedule, which reaps the same health rewards.
So how can you motivate yourself to stroll through the neighborhood? It may seem daunting at first to ease off of Netflix and hit the block instead, but you don’t have to do it alone. Bring along a friend or family member for a walk and catch up with them—you might just surprise yourself with how much fun it is. If you’re up for a solo adventure (like me), download a podcast or some upbeat tunes that match your current mood. Just be careful to tune into your surroundings as well for your safety.
If you live in a city or other environment that isn’t so pedestrian friendly, it can be difficult to find convenient walking trails. Thankfully, apps such as AllTrails or TrailLink point out the nearest hiking routes so you don’t have to search far and wide. If you want to track your steps or log your overall walk, Strava and Nike are helpful too—but fitness coaches suggest focusing on how you feel instead of a step counter for your wellbeing.
While walking may not become your whole lifestyle, you can certainly reintroduce it in a few ways. For example, parking your car farther from the grocery store allows you to stretch your legs a little more. Instead of waiting in an elevator with strangers, try taking the stairs if you’re physically able. You can also schedule an intentional walk with your friend each morning for extra accountability. Whichever way works for you, try making it a lifelong habit by lacing up those shoes. Your body—and mind—will thank you in the long run. Happy walking!