4 Ways to Supercharge Your Next Walk

Take a walk—that was Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s call to action this week at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Total Health in Washington, D.C., urging Americans to move more and calling for easy access to safe spaces for walking in every community. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate to intense activity a week—an average of 22 minutes a day—but a report on the Surgeon General’s Step It Up initiative says only half of all U.S. adults meet the guidelines.

The risks of a sedentary lifestyle are huge—physical inactivity accounts for 11 percent of premature deaths and contributes to one’s risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and depression. The health benefits of regular physical activity are equally great—lower risk of chronic disease, prevention of weight gain, prevention of falls, reduced depression and even better cognitive function in older adults.

Ready to step up to the Step It Up challenge? Supercharge your walk with these tips and get even more health benefits every time you lace up your sneakers:

Take it outside.

If you have plenty of nature nearby, take advantage of it. A study published in June in Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences found that natural environments were restorative and decreased “rumination”—the process of dwelling on a problem. They also had lower levels of activity in an area of the brain linked to mental illness risk.

Use your arms.

A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences in 2009, found that a normal arm swing—swinging your left arm forward as you step with your right foot, and vice versa—is the most “economical” way of walking. But keep your arms still at your sides and you’ll actually use 12 percent more energy. And if you swing them in sync with yours legs, you’ll use 26 percent more energy.

Do it in the morning.

Tossing and turning at night? A morning walk might be able to remedy that. A 2003 study by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center of women 50-70 years old found that a brisk walk in the morning improved sleep quality at night. “Exercise could affect some hormones that keep you more awake,” speculated study researcher Dr. Anne McTiernan. “In the morning, those energizing hormones make you feel good during the day. By the time night falls, they’ll have worn off and you can sleep better.”

Walk with a friend.

Going on a walk with a group of friends isn’t just a great opportunity to catch up—it’s also good for your health. A review and analysis of walking group studies published in January in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who regularly walk in groups have lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rate and lower cholesterol. People who walked in groups also had a more positive attitude toward physical activity.

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129 comments

Mike R
Mike R7 months ago

Thanks

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Peggy B
Peggy B7 months ago

TY

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD7 months ago

Tyfs

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Justin M
Justin M7 months ago

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Kelsey S
Kelsey S7 months ago

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Lesa D
Past Member 7 months ago

thank you Diana...

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Ruth S
Ruth S7 months ago

Thanks.

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Danuta W
Danuta W7 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Thomas M
Past Member 7 months ago

thank you

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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