added Jan. 8th, 2013
The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, recently brought together walking advocates in Washington announcing, “We have to make being healthy joyful.” Being healthy as a joyful experience can mean something different to everyone. For one, it can be the simple act of taking the dog for a nightly walk while listening to a favorite playlist or audio book. Yet for another, it can be a leisurely stroll with family or a neighbor to chat and catch up on the day’s events. Let’s add in another bonus to walking: according to the Mayo Clinic, research shows that regular, brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart attack by the same amount as more vigorous exercise, such as jogging.
“The human body was built for movement and function; not to sit in cars and behind computers all hours of the day,” says Certified Personal Trainer Emily Pomykala. “Walking is the most natural movement in human evolution, as it utilizes muscles in every group, and increases both cardiorespiratory and muscular endurance.” Walking is inclusive of everyone as it is safe for most populations, from the very young to the very old.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will be producing a Surgeon General’s report that is “a call to action on walking.” The call to action will be accompanied by a national campaign for walking. Although the call to action is expected to take up to 18 months to launch, there are many ways parents and kids can incorporate the simple act and exercise of walking into their daily routines making walking fun, purposeful and yes, even joyful.
Game Night Gets Going
This isn't the usual Game Night where everyone sits around a Monopoly board. Although that is always fun, these games get everyone moving. Brainstorm ideas with the family such as Walking Tag. Walking Tag is tag but everyone has to walk, heel to toe, no running allowed. Go on a scavenger hunt in the local mall with the family. Each team gets a list of items that can be found in the mall for free like a straw from a restaurant, ketchup packet, stick of gum from a shopper, etc. Get creative and get the whole family involved. Not only will it improve everyone’s health, it will get the family interacting and having fun.
This isn't the Facetime that we all know on our mobile devices. Instead of texting for 30 minutes with your friend in town, get together in any weather and go for a walk to chat. If it’s too cold or rainy, meet at the local mall and promise each other that you will only stop to window shop after 30 solid minutes of catching up while briskly walking.
Every day, we are on the phone. Personal and business calls keep us on the phone for many minutes of the day when we are at work and at home. Take this phone time to get up and move. Walk around the house or office, pace back and forth in your cubicle, walk up and down the stairs two at a time – just move! Unless you have to take notes, get out of the chair or off the couch and make your talk time healthy and physically efficient.
“Walking does not need to be done outside,” Pomykala reminds us. “Marching in place in your living room and incorporating side steps, hamstring curls, and knee raises are equally as effective and can be done in short spurts and in the comfort of your own home.” That client on the other end of the phone will never know you are side-stepping while he chats with you.
Fast Forward to Health
So many people love to end their day relaxing in front of the television with their favorite shows. Use the commercials to get healthy. Don’t use the DVR to fast forward through commercials. Instead, get up during each break and walk. Walk around your entire house until you hear your program come back on during one commercial break. During another, march in place or walk up and down all the flights of stairs in your house. Let your children recommend ways to walk during commercials and take turns using everyone’s suggestions.
Think about the activities that members of your family do to relax that plant them on a chair or couch such as computers (moms and dads are guilty, too!), video games and television. Have everyone in the family earn extra time to be sedentary. Mom wants to check out Facebook for a while? Make a chart and for every 10 minutes of walking per day, each family member is awarded 10 minutes of a favorite activity that keeps them sitting. Keep track of everyone’s time each week and declare a winner every Friday night. The winner gets 30 minutes extra time for the computer or TV the following week.
There are so many places that we could walk to but simply do not because of the ease and convenience of hopping into a car. The library, post office, grocery store, or your child’s school might be within a 10 to 20-minute walk from your house. If you live close enough to your child’s school and have a few extra minutes in the morning, walk to school while spending quality time talking about the day ahead. Need to return a book to the library? Take a quick walk and get your errand done while feeling good about getting some exercise, too.
“Walking does not have to be chore,” says Pomykala. “It is much easier to encourage a moderate walking program that is free and accessible than it is to encourage people to pay for a gym membership or start throwing around kettlebells.” The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate activity, but three 10-minute periods of activity are almost as beneficial to your overall fitness as one 30-minute session.