time to celebrate national walking day

Keely Kalama-Lakey
April 02, 2024

Taking a walk is so easy for most people, its health benefits can be underestimated. However, experts report that no matter the purpose or how long each walk lasts, time spent walking adds up to better health. Whether you hike to watch the sunrise or stroll, instead of drive, to the store, walking is a versatile and valuable physical activity for almost everyone.

That’s why the American Heart Association declared the first Wednesday of April as National Walking Day way back in 2007. They wanted to get people active and improve heart health. Since then, knowledge about the benefits of walking has grown tremendously.

never too late to start walking
Just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, can meet your physical activity goals.

Reap the rewards
For most people, walking regularly is good for their heart health, blood sugar control, weight management, bone health, and joint health. It supports mental health by relieving stress levels and easing anxiety and depression. Walking can improve your endurance and balance, give you energy, and boost your immune system. It’s also good for brain health and even increases creativity.

Never too late
If you aren’t walking regularly, National Walking Day on April 3 is a great day to begin. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. You can break that down by walking for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. Three 10-minute walks a day will also meet your 30-minute goal.

Walk in well lit, populated areas; be aware of your surroundings; and follow important safety tips. Also be sure to use proper walking posture and technique. Start with a short walk on your street or at a nearby park. Or, visit a botanical garden. With Hawaii’s year-round good weather, it’s easy to get outside and enjoy nature, and remember your sunscreen! Walking at a mall is also a great option.

a short walk in the park adds to an active lifestyle
Even a short walk in the park adds to an active lifestyle.

Justin L. Menina, physical activity coordinator for the Hawaii Department of Health’s Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division, has more tips to help you start and maintain a walking routine.

Get ready

  • Set realistic goals. Start with achievable ones, such as walking for 20-30 minutes a day, three times a week, and gradually increase the duration and frequency as you build endurance.
  • Stay hydrated and fuel your body. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your walks, especially in hot or humid conditions. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Dress in breathable, moisture-wicking clothing suitable for the weather conditions. If possible, wear supportive walking shoes (or slippers) that fit well and provide adequate cushioning. You don’t need expensive athletic or running shoes to go walking. If you do buy shoes, invest in a good pair of durable walking shoes that provide arch support, cushioning, and stability.
  • Choose the right time and place. Pick a convenient time and location for your walk, whether it’s early in the morning, during your lunch break, or in the evening. Consider walking in a park, around your neighborhood, or on a nature trail for a change of scenery.

On the walk

  • Warm-up and cool down. Start each walking session with a few minutes of gentle stretching to warm up your muscles and prevent injury. Afterward, cool down with more stretching to improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.
  • Listen to your body. Pay attention to how your body feels during and after your walk. If you experience any pain or discomfort, adjust your pace or distance, and consult a health care professional if necessary.

a walking buddy can keep you motivated
A walking buddy can help keep you motived.

Keep it going

  • Find a walking buddy. Having a walking partner can make the activity more enjoyable and hold you accountable. Your walking buddy can be a friend, family member, or even a pet.
  • Track your progress. Keep a log of your walks, including the distance, duration, and any observations or goals achieved. Using a fitness tracker or smartphone app can help you monitor your progress and maintain your interest in reaching your goals.

Stay motivated

  • Mix it up. Prevent boredom by varying your walking routes, pace, and intensity. You can also incorporate interval training, hill walking, or adding strength exercises like lunges or squats along the way to challenge yourself. Always check with your doctor to make sure new exercises are right for you.
  • Use rewards and make it fun. Set rewards for reaching milestones, join walking groups or challenges, or listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks while walking.
  • Integrate walking into errands. Consider walking your kids to school or parking farther from the store to get some extra steps in.

The health benefits of walking can vary based on factors such as the duration, frequency, and intensity of your walks. If you want to enhance the benefits, consider increasing the duration or incorporating more brisk walking intervals.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to get walking.

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