Walking is one of the most popular forms of exercise in the United States, with 6 out of 10 older Americans reporting going for a walk for exercise each week. Health benefits of walking include:
- Weight loss
- Improved cardiopulmonary function
- Reduce blood pressure
- Decreased risk of developing certain diseases such as diabetes
- Maintain bone density
- Improve mood
The Department of Health and Human Services currently recommends 150 minutes per week of physical activity at moderate intensity. While this may sound like a lot, one 30 minute walk 5 days a week can easily reach this goal. Like with all exercise programs, it is important to make time for your health, and splitting it into manageable and bite-sized chunks.
Americans tend to be more sedentary than comparable countries, and this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Current CDC estimates state less than 50% of adults get adequate physical activity for cardiopulmonary and overall health. Here in clinic we have unfortunately seen an uptick in patients over the past months who are not necessarily injured, but are deconditioned.
With gyms and community centers being closed due to COVID-19, safe exercise options are unfortunately currently limited. Outdoor exercise has been limited as well to the excessive heat this summer, however, mornings and evenings are starting to feel like something other than the surface of the sun. With all the current limitations, simply going for a walk becomes a very viable option.
Walking is one of the most effective and cost efficient methods of exercise. It requires no additional equipment, memberships, or any other costs. A good pair of shoes and a water bottle is all that you need.
Due to the transmission method of COVID-19, walking outside is also a safe method of staying active with low risk of transmission (while still following social distancing guidelines).
When returning to activity from either an injury or break in consistency, always remember to decrease the distance and intensity for the first several sessions. Walking is more exercise than most realize, and it is common for patients to walk too far the first few times and flare up recovering injuries. Start with about half the distance you were walking before, and try to find a route that loops if possible. Then slowly build back up from there, and extend the distance as you feel comfortable.
If starting a walking routine for the first time, try only a couple blocks at first and see how you respond. Slowly progress the distance and frequency depending on how your body does. Some soreness in the muscles is to be expected after the first few times. It is perfectly ok to start with only a couple days for the first few weeks, and then work up in volume and distance from there.
While COVID-19 numbers in Arizona have been on a decline, please do continue to observe social distancing guidelines while exercising outdoors. Face masks are not required by law in Arizona during outdoor exercise, including walking, and with appropriate distancing outdoors transmission rate is low but still possible. Keep an appropriate distance of 6 ft and/or wear a face mask while visiting with neighbors or friends you may encounter while out for a stroll.