Step right up – it’s time to get walking on a regular basis to improve your health and wellbeing.
The great thing about walking is that as well as offering many health benefits, it’s also good for any age or fitness level, and you can do it whenever you want. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money – all you need is a supportive pair of shoes.
Walking helps reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. It also improves your heart rate and circulation, muscle and bone strength, balance, self-esteem and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Here are some tips to help make walking a regular part of your life:
1. Write down a plan
If you write down when you’re going to go for a regular walk, you’re more likely to stick to doing it and stay motivated. Whether you want to walk first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, in the evening or on the weekends, write it in your diary or on your calendar to help make it a regular part of your routine. And don’t stress if you miss a walk, just do it another time when you can.
2. Start off slowly
If you’re starting out, walk slowly and just for a short distance (even if it’s just around the block) then gradually build it up. You can make it more challenging over time by increasing the distance you walk, the intensity (eg, up hills) and the number of times you do it each week.
3. Think about safety
When you go out for a walk, make sure you walk in a safe, well-lit area. Walking with a friend or whānau member can also make you feel safer as you’re not alone. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, slap on some sunscreen and sunglasses and drink lots of water. Wearing supportive shoes is also important – you can buy new or pick up a cheaper pair on sale or on TradeMe.
4. Change it up
To avoid getting bored, try taking a different route around your neighbourhood or walking in different places such as the beach, a park or on a walking track.
5. Focus on breathing
It’s great to get into a rhythm when you’re walking. Try extending that to your breathing by breathing deeply and rhythmically. One way to do this is to try breathing in for 4 steps, then breathing out for 4 steps.
6. The more the merrier
Some people like to walk alone, but others prefer to walk with friends, whānau or as part of a walking group. Walking with others may help you stay motivated and make it more social and fun.
7. Be patient
You may not notice any benefits straight away from becoming a regular walker, but don’t give up! It can take up to 6 weeks to feel the health benefits.
8. Sneak more walking into your day
As well as your regular walking plan, you can also increase your walking by doing extra things like getting off the bus one stop earlier, taking the stairs instead of the lift and walking to the shops instead of driving.
Please see your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about increasing your exercise levels or starting a new fitness programme.
- Walking Ministry of Health, NZ, 2020