The latest research shows that sitting may be more harmful to your health than smoking. Luckily, getting up off the couch and going for a walk can put you well on your way to preventing everything from heart disease and diabetes to high blood pressure, depression, memory problems, and more.
Although you’ve likely been walking since you were about one year old, there are specific techniques that can help you avoid injuries, make walking more enjoyable, and increase the health benefits of walking.
Here are five research-backed ways to sneak more steps into every day—as well as get the most out of every step you take.
- Walk as much as you can. Many people aim for a daily goal of 10,000 steps (or about 5 miles. The 10,000-steps goal is thought to be a realistic minimum, and it’s good, but for complete risk reduction, people should aim for more, but getting 15,000 steps per day can lead to greater benefits. Those who take 5,000 extra steps had no metabolic syndrome risk factors at all.
- Pick up the pace. Another way to get more out of even a shorter walk is to do it faster. Walkers who have a faster stepping rate have lower BMI and lower waist circumference
- Break it up. It is hard to accumulate 15,000 steps in leisure time only, but if you take walking breaks throughout the day, it is doable.” Aim for brisk walking bouts of 10 minutes or more at a time. You’ll get in more steps and decrease the amount of time you spend being sedentary—which is a big risk factor for heart disease.
- Try intervals. Instead of doing an entire 30-minute walk at the same moderate pace, try high-intensity interval training. Alternate between 30-second to 1-minute bursts of faster walking, followed by a minute or two of slower-paced recovery.
- Take it uphill. Think of it as getting two for one. When you increase your intensity, such as walking up a steep hill, you get the equivalent benefit in half the time.
Walking can even help your mood. A number of studies have found that it’s as effective as drugs for decreasing depression. It can help relieve everyday stresses, too. Tension starts to ease as the road stretches out in front of you. Mood-elevating endorphin levels increase. Many people and that walking helps clear the mind, too—you may even and the solution to a problem that’s been bugging you.
2 ways to prevent injuries when walking
Stand tall. Leaning forward or hunching over makes it more difficult to breathe and can cause backaches. To avoid this problem, extend your spine as if you were being lifted from the crown of your head. Place your thumbs on your lower ribs and your fingertips on your hips. As you stand tall, notice how the distance between your fingers increases.
Look up. Looking at your feet puts unnecessary stress on your upper back and neck. Bring your gaze out about 10 to 20 feet in front of you. You’ll still be able to see ahead and you’ll prevent upper-body tension.
Getting exercise through walking is as easy as lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement. Doing so will boost your health in several important ways.