It’s no secret that a sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to our health. Studies show that the more time in our lives we spend sitting and not moving, the shorter our lifespan will probably be (1). Now that’s scary!
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as hiring a personal trainer or enrolling in an expensive gym (although if those are viable options for you, great). Spending time simply walking each and every day can have major health benefits, and can be done just about anywhere, free of charge.
In fact, even if you do go to the gym on a regular basis or engage in other forms of exercise, making sure you incorporate walking into your daily routine is still hugely important to your health.
Studies have shown that for optimal health, we want to sit for just around 3 hours per day. Consider that the average office worker might sit for up to 13 hours per day! And this difference is having serious impacts on our physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
How does sitting for long periods of time harm us?
Research shows that by sitting for long periods of time, the lack of muscle contractions experienced can decrease blood flow throughout the entire body, and reduce the efficiency of various biological processes. In fact, only 1 hour of sitting can lessen the blood flow to the main leg artery by 50%. Getting up every hour and taking a short walk can make a big difference in our risk of heart disease due to decreased blood flow (2).
Ideally, you can get up and walk for at least 10 minutes for every hour of sitting.
In fact, as soon as you stand up (within about a minute and a half), your muscular and cellular systems are activated, especially those that control blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This can also help to prevent diabetes.
Walking: the superfood of fitness
According to Katy Bowman, the author of Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement:
“Walking is a superfood. It’s the defining movement of a human. It’s a lot easier to get movement than it is to get exercise. Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sitting around the rest of the day. You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.”
While getting a mix of walking and more rigorous types of exercise is ideal, for many Americans who are sedentary, walking is an excellent start. And, walking is something that most people can do, even if you cannot engage in more intense forms of activity. Another benefit of walking is that it can be tailored to the individual. Someone with a very low level of fitness will benefit from a leisurely walk around the block, while someone with a higher level can power walk hills and get a more intense workout.
Buy A Pedometer Or Use An App To Track Your Steps
Nowadays, tracking how much you’ve walked is quite easy. There are endless mobile apps and devices on the market that do just that: help you set daily goals for how much you need to walk, and stick to those goals.
Say you want to walk 3 miles per day (approximately 7,000 steps). If you aren’t doing this walking all at once and mapping it before hand, it’s nearly impossible to actually know how much you are doing. You might actually be surprised by how much you are or are not walking already, but tracking your daily steps is the best way to hold yourself accountable, and slowly increase your mileage.
Ways To Walk More Every Day:
- Walk to work and back if you can, even if it’s just a day or two per week.
- Take the stairs.
- Park several blocks away from your destination and walk back and forth from your car.
- Walk to your coworkers office to personally deliver a message instead of writing an e-mail.
- Get up as often as possible from your desk (ideally every hour) and take a walk around the office or (better yet) outside.
- Buy a standing desk, treadmill desk, or use an exercise ball as a chair. These are all great ways to keep moving and keep muscles engaged.
- Set a timer on your computer, phone or watch every hour to remind yourself to get up a take a short walk or stretch.
- Arrange a walking date several times per week with a friend, coworker, family member or by yourself. Scheduled times for walking will ensure you stick to a plan.
While it might sound simple, using these methods to incorporate more walking into your daily routine can have a hugely positive impact on your physical health status, not to mention is likely to make you feel more mentally and emotionally stable, as well.