In January, the launch of the 30-Day Challenge focused on losing weight, whether your goal was to slip into that favorite outfit you no longer wear or to reclaim your health and well-being.
For February (and since it’s the shortest month, a few days into March), we’re going to walk. And walk.
Some may scoff and say walking is barely a workout. That depends. If you’re already reasonably fit, a growing number of studies suggest that the best way to take your fitness to the next level is with high-intensity intervals – going really hard for a minute, resting for a minute and repeating that 10 times until your head is spinning and you feel like you’re about to lose your lunch. Burpees, stair climbs, wind sprints, that kind of thing.
Walking, unless you’re signed up for the hot coals option at a Tony Robbins “Unleash the Power Within” seminar, is relatively low on the intensity meter. But there are many health benefits, especially for those trying to ease back into a fitness routine.
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For starters, you don’t need special equipment or a gym membership. All you have to do is carve out some time, head out your front door and start racking up the steps.
Your goal, if you’re willing and able, is to accumulate 10,000 steps a day. That’s become the gold standard in recent years and lots of people are already doing it. You can get a Fitbit or other fitness gadget, or you can use your smartphone.
Is there scientific evidence to support that number? Not really. But there is plenty of science showing you can manage your weight, improve your mood, reduce blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease and, perhaps, make your dog fall in love with you all over again.
Even though 10,000 is just a number, it helps to have a concrete goal. For one thing, it’s probably more than you’re already walking – the typical sedentary person takes 1,000 to 3,000 steps daily – so if you hit 10,000 you’re moving more and heading in the right direction. If you stick with it for 30 days, you’ll accumulate some pretty impressive numbers: 300,000 steps, 150 miles and 50 to 60 hours of moving and having fun.
What happens when you know you need to make 10,000 steps a day? You start to live differently. You no longer look for the closest parking spot at the grocery store or mall. Parking way out there means you can rack up several hundred more steps. After dinner, it gets you out the door to walk off your meal. Take the dog on more walks and you both will be happier. As the 30-day Challenge moves along, your enthusiasm for exercise will likely get you thinking about doing something more to supplement the walking – take yoga or Pilates, start some kind of strength training program, or get out your bike and go for a ride.
To get started and stay on track, here are some helpful hints:
1. Wake up a little earlier and get a head start on your 10,000-step goal. A walk before breakfast is a great way to jump-start your day.
2. Annoy your loved ones and park your car in the boondocks. Drive right past that empty parking spot in the front row and head for the back. Your “bad” parking spot will do you some good.
3. Go for an urban/suburban hike. Go explore beyond your neighborhood. Distance-wise, 10,000 steps is about 5 miles, which the average person can do in 90-100 minutes.
4. Explore nature. Head out into the woods, go to a park or get acquainted with the vast American River Parkway. Getting a few thousand steps will hardly seem like drudgery if you spot some deer grazing at dusk or a hawk circling over a grassy field in search of breakfast.
5. Pick one day a week where you go long – tackle a big walk. Try for something epic, whether it’s 30 minutes or three hours. One extra-long, sustained walk every once in a while will boost your endurance and make all the other walks easier.
6. Vary your routine. Walk to lunch or brunch. Do your errands on foot. It all adds up.
7. If you watch a lot of TV, pick two shows each night, but separate them with an hour walk in between. Manage your time by recording the shows.
If you’re interested in getting back into walking or are already out there adding up the steps, drop us an email and let us know your experiences so we can share them with readers. We’ll be revisiting this 30-Day Challenge in the days ahead. What has focusing on walking done for your well-being? Where are your favorite places to walk? How many steps are you getting each day?