There’s no doubt about it: including physical activity as part of your daily routine is the way to go. But how do you get (and keep) going?
Consider the Health Benefits
It may help to realize where regular physical activity can take you. In terms of health alone, the benefits can be tremendous.
- Studies show that regular modest exercise combined with a loss of less than 10 pounds reduced risk of adult onset diabetes among higher-weight women and men.
- Moderate physical activity (predominantly walking) as part of your daily routine can help improve body composition, reduce blood cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease risk, especially when it’s maintained over a couple of years.
Perhaps more encouraging is the fact that whether you lose weight or not, physical activity by itself offers real benefits that can mean a happier, healthier life.
Getting and Staying Started: Increased Walking is Realistic
So how do you conquer the all-too-common tendency to procrastinate when it comes to physical activity? First, you need to be realistic.
Many women who come to Green Mountain have unrealistic expectations about what they need to do to reap the benefits of regular exercise. They believe they need to spend inordinate amounts of time at it every day — time that they often don’t have.
What is a realistic expectation? Just resolve to increase your walking. It doesn’t take special equipment or joining a club; it just takes a little imagination. The motivation comes when you find it’s not so hard, it feels great, and can even be fun!
Does It Help to Count Steps When You Walk?
The 10,000 Steps program, a research project of the National Weight Registry, showed that 10,000 steps a day can make a big difference.
“Over 90% of the participants cited feeling better mentally and physically, having more energy, and being more ready to engage in physical activity.”
Our experience at Green Mountain suggests counting steps can help, if we don’t focus on perfection but instead just count steps as a way to stay aware of how much we’re moving on a regular basis.
The average person walks about 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day already. To double that really doesn’t take much. Start gradually, adding a few steps a day. Many of those who took part in the 10,000 Steps program said the pedometer was the one thing that helped them most when it came to increasing their activity. It can quickly give you an idea of your baseline – where you are starting from – and is a great feedback tool for monitoring progress.
Setting measurable goals and seeing your progress in reaching them can be a great motivator. But instead of setting them unrealistically, start where you are. If you’re very far from 10,000 steps a day, it may not be that motivating to set that goal, then be unable to achieve it on a regular basis.
Stepping It Up: How To Add More Walking Into Your Daily Routine
Try starting with just a few changes in your routine. Park your car farther away from the door at the shopping center or at your office.
It’s amazing how quickly steps add up just going through your daily routine at home or office. But a good brisk walk several times a week at the least will help you feel better physically and mentally.
If you have a dog, take her on a daily walk; Fido will get so used to it, pretty soon she will be taking you. (Dogs definitely get attached to their daily walks and can be very persistent in urging you out the door.) Or call up a friend — maybe she would like to start walking, too. You and your friend can take turns “playing dog” – that is, being the one to get you both out the door.
3 Tips to Get The Most Out of Your Walk
- Keep your head and chin up, bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and swing your arms.
- Lengthen your stride.
- Stretch after you have warmed up for 5 to 10 minutes or so. Stretch the calf, quadriceps and hamstring muscles of each leg. Do static stretches – hold them for 10 to 30 seconds without bouncing — 3 to 5 times each. Repeat the stretches after you finish walking, too.
The Green Mountain Experience – Walking Programs Work
Walking has formed the basis of the physical activity program at Green Mountain at Fox Run since our program was founded in 1973. Over the years, we have seen thousands of women reach their health and weight goals using our approach of sensible eating combined with regular, yet reasonable physical activity.
A study conducted of Green Mountain participants five years after they had taken part in our program showed physical activity was the greatest predictor of whether they continued to lose weight and keep it off after returning home. And walking was the physical activity most of them chose regularly.