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Get moving: The health benefits of walking

The first step toward a healthier life is exactly that — putting one foot literally in front of the other. Walking is one of the most effective forms of exercise. Improving your health can be as easy as incorporating extra steps into your daily routine.

By adopting a regular walking routine, you can:

  • Increase HDL (“good” cholesterol) and lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol).
  • Increase muscle tone and bone density.
  • Increase energy, stamina and metabolism.
  • Reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), back pain and arthritis.
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
  • Reduce stress.

How many steps do you have to take for your body to feel the benefits?

A good goal for most people to aim for is 10,000 steps for day. You can use a pedometer or wearable fitness tracker to track the number of steps you take. Try wearing it for one day without changing your normal routine. You might be surprised at how much walking you’re doing already. Once you know your number, use it as a baseline for creating a more focused walking routine.

  • Don’t have a pedometer or fitness tracker? Another good measure is the amount of time you spend walking throughout the week. Aim for 30 – 60 minutes a day, at least five days a week.
  • Want to know if you’re walking at an effective pace? Try singing. It should be easy to carry a conversation while walking, but difficult to carry a tune.

Make the most of your walking routine

  • Choose comfortable, supportive shoes. Running, walking or cross-training shoes, or light hiking boots, are all good choices.
  • For longer walks, warm up with stretching exercises. Include a cool-down period to reduce stress on your heart and muscles.
  • Practice correct posture. Keep your head upright, with arms bent at the elbows and swinging as you stride.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after walking to cool your active muscles and keep your body hydrated.

Most importantly — make it enjoyable. If you’re not looking forward to your walks, ask your friends to come along or switch up your route. Get into a routine that’s fun for you and you’ll be more likely to stick with it!

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