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Walking: Step into Better Health

Mother with her children walking in public park with their mixed breed dog in time of corona virus outbreak. They wear protective mask and keeping social distance with other people as a prevention for spreading disease.

By Pam Melyan-Bratton | Contributor

Walking has become all the rage during the pandemic as a way to escape the confines of our own four walls.  Since March, many families have taken to the streets and found walking to be a healthy way to spend time together and improve their health especially as many indoor facilities have been closed. As the colder months approach, some may be tempted to crawl back into their dens and hibernate.

The Centers for Disease Control states, “Regular physical activity can reduce the burden of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, and can prevent early death. Despite the known health benefits of being physically active, only one-half of U.S. adults and about one-quarter of high school students meet the minimum guidelines for aerobic physical activity. Walking is an easy way to start and maintain a physically active lifestyle, and walkable communities make it easier for people of all ages and abilities to be active.”

Certified Personal Trainer Emily Pomykala agrees. “The human body was built for movement and function, not to sit in cars and behind computers all hours of the day. Walking is the most natural movement in human evolution, as it utilizes muscles in every group, and increases both cardiorespiratory and muscular endurance.” And, walking is inclusive of everyone—it is safe for the very young to the very old.

What’s not to like about walking? It’s free. It’s easy to do, and it’s easy on the joints.
Arthritis Foundation

As many of us continue to work from home in front of computers for much of the day, here are some ideas for moving during the day or night.

Game Night Gets Going
This Game Night goes beyond Monopoly. Play a game of Walking Tag in which everyone has to walk heel to toe, no running allowed.  Families can also go on a scavenger hunt in the neighborhood. Each team gets a list of items that can be found or photographed—like a red car, an orange leaf, a barking dog, etc. Get creative, and get the whole family involved.

The Original Facetime
Get together, no matter the weather! Chat with a friend online in any weather, and go for a walk! Walk around your homes with your camera, play “show and tell” with interesting things around your home, or find a scavenger hunt online and do it together. Of course, if the weather allows, stroll through the neighborhood safely distanced or chat on the phone while taking your after-dinner walk. Walk around the house, pace back and forth—just move! Pomykala says, “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.” 

Fast Forward to Health
While relaxing at the end of the day in front of the television, don’t use the DVR to fast-forward through commercials. Get up during each break and walk around your entire house until you hear your program come back on. During another commercial break, march in place. Let your children recommend ways to walk during commercials and take turns using everyone’s suggestions.  Watching something without commercials? Set a timer for every ten minutes and move for two minutes! Cardio Contests Have everyone in the family “earn” time to be sedentary. Make a chart and for every 10 minutes of walking per day, each family member is awarded time for a favorite activity that keeps them sitting. Keep track of everyone’s time each week and declare a winner every Friday night.

Errand Exercise
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 10–20-minute walk from your house. If you absolutely need to drive, park as far from the building as you can to get in some extra walking.

What It’s Worth
The American Heart Association recommends that children 6-17 years old should get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity mostly aerobic physical activity.  Adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity. 

“Walking does not have to be a 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.”

Additional Resources:

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