Monday, August 15, 2016

Walking - A Healthy Lifestyle

Why Walk? Why Not!

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination each week. The guidelines also recommend that children and adolescents be active for at least 60 minutes every day. Following these guidelines can contribute to overall health, and decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

Walking is a great way to get the physical activity needed to obtain health benefits. Walking does not require any special skills. It also does not require a gym membership or expensive equipment.

There's no need for fancy equipment when it comes to walking—but that doesn't stop walking from being a powerful form of exercise. In fact, it's known to have huge health benefits: regular walking encourages good eating habits, cuts the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and even improves mood and memory. And, of course, walking torches calories and burns fat. If you're just getting started exercising, walking is ideal: you can do it at any speed, and the impact on your weight and health will be significant.

Walking, Infographic, Prevention Magazine
Source: Prevention Magazine 

Why Walking
Walking and wheelchair rolling are great ways for people to increase their physical activity. Walking is a powerful public health strategy for the following reasons:  

Walking is an easy way to start and maintain a physically active lifestyle.
  • Walking does not require special skills, facilities, or expensive equipment.
  • Walking is a year-round activity that can be done indoors or outdoors. 
  • Walking can be done by people of all ages and abilities.
  • Many people with disabilities are able to walk or move with assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or walkers.
Walking is the most common form of physical activity for people across the country.
Walking can serve many purposes:
  • Catching up with friends and family 
  • Getting to school, work, or a nearby store 
  • Exercise

Walk to Better Health 
About half of all adults get enough aerobic physical activity to improve their health.
Aerobic activities like brisk walking, running, swimming and bicycling make you breathe harder and make your heart and blood vessels healthier.

6 in 10
Walking is the most popular aerobic physical activity. About 6 in 10 adults reported walking for at least 10 minutes in the previous week.

Adults who walk for transportation, fun, or exercise went up 6 percent in 5 years.

More than 145 million adults now include walking as part of a physically active lifestyle. More than 6 in 10 people walk for transportation or for fun, relaxation, or exercise, or for activities such as walking the dog. The percentage of people who report walking at least once for 10 minutes or more in the previous week rose from 56% (2005) to 62% (2010).

Physical activity helps control weight, but it has other benefits. Physical activity such as walking can help improve health even without weight loss. People who are physically active live longer and have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers. Improving spaces and having safe places to walk can help more people become physically active.

The Community Guide, Infographic, CDC
Source: CDC

Americans need more physical activity

Less than half of all adults get the recommended amount of physical activity
  • Adults need at least 2 and 1/2 hours (150 minutes) a week of aerobic physical activity. This should be at a moderate level, such as a fast-paced walk for no less than 10 minutes at a time.
  • Women and older adults are not as likely to get the recommended level of weekly physical activity.
  • Inactive adults have higher risk for early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.
  • Regular physical activity helps people get and keep a healthy weight.
  • Walkable communities result in more physical activity.
More people are walking, but just how many depends on where they live, their health, and their age
  • The West and Northeast regions have the highest percentage of adults who walk in the country, but the South showed the largest percent increase of adults who walk compared to the other regions.
  • More adults with arthritis or high blood pressure are now walking, but not those with type 2 diabetes.
  • Walking increased among adults 65 or older, but less than in other age groups.
People need safe, convenient places to walk
  • People are more likely to walk and move about more when they feel protected from traffic and safe from crime and hazards. 
    • Maintaining surfaces can keep people who walk from falling and getting hurt. This also helps wheelchairs and strollers and is safer for people with poor vision.
  • People need to know where places to walk in their communities exist that are safe and convenient.
  • Walking routes in and near neighborhoods encourage people to walk to stops for buses, trains, and trolleys.

Walking, Infographic, CDC
Source: CDC

What Can Be Done
US government is
  • Working with partners to carry out the National Prevention Strategy to make physical activity easier where people live, work, and play.
  • Helping people get active through programs like Community Transformation Grants and Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity state programs, and by working with partners like Safe Routes to Schools.
  • Studying ways that communities can make it easy and convenient for people to be more active.
State or local governments can
  • Consider walking when creating long-range community plans.
  • Consider designing local streets and roadways that are safe for people who walk and other road users.
  • Consider opportunities to let community residents use local school tracks or gyms after classes have finished.
  • Make sure existing sidewalks and walking paths are kept in good condition, well lit and free of problems such as snow, rocks, trash, and fallen tree limbs.
  • Promote walking paths with signs that are easy to read, and route maps that the public can easily find and use.
Employers can
  • Create and support walking programs for employees.
  • Identify walking paths around or near the work place and promote them with signs and route maps.
  • Provide places at work to shower or change clothes, when possible.
Individuals can
  • Start a walking group with friends and neighbors.
  • Help others walk more safely by driving the speed limit and yielding to people who walk.
  • Use crosswalks and crossing signals when crossing streets and not jaywalk.
  • Participate in local planning efforts that identify best sites for walking paths and sidewalks.
  • Work with parents and schools to encourage children to walk to school where safe.

Walking, Infographic, CDC
Source: CDC

More Adults Are Walking (CDC-Podcast).

Walking Activity Card

Gear Up
Shoes are the most important part of your walking gear. Good walking shoes are generally flat, but flexible, so your foot rolls with each step. They should fit well, but leave enough room for your feet to spread out while walking. Wear socks that are comfortable. Try socks made of cotton or other sweat-wicking materials—they will keep your feet drier and help prevent blisters. Running shoes are okay to use for walking. Don't forget to trade in the old shoes when the treads start wearing out—which is about 500 miles. Whew!

Wear comfortable clothing when walking. Try to dress in layers, so you can always take off something as you warm up. Layering with a t-shirt, sweatshirt, or windproof jacket is a good idea if it's windy or chilly outside.

Two other essentials: sunscreen and a hat. The sunscreen protects your skin from the sun. In the summer, a hat keeps the sun out of your face, and in the winter it helps to keep you warm by trapping the heat that is lost from the top of your head. A bright colored hat will also make it easy for drivers to see and avoid you. Need to learn more about sun protection? Read here for more info! 

Play it Safe
Before you walk out the door, talk about the best walking routes with your parents so you know your safety zones and how to avoid traffic. And, only walk in those areas so your parents will know where you are.

It's always best to walk where you can avoid traffic—like parks or even the mall! Or try to find an area where there are sidewalks. If you have to walk on a street without sidewalks, walk close to the curb facing traffic. Remember to cross the street only at marked crosswalks or at corners, keep your ears and eyes open, and watch out for traffic in front and back of you. Wear bright-colored clothing or reflectors so drivers can see you. If you are walking alone, don't wear headphones—if they are too loud, they can keep you from hearing any oncoming traffic.

Water, water, water. It's a good idea to drink some water before you head out to walk, while you are walking, and when you get back—even if it's cold outside or you don't feel thirsty. In the summer, late afternoons (not nights) and mornings are the best times to walk to avoid the midday heat and humidity. To find out more about staying cool, click here.

It is best to warm up your muscles before stretching them. So warm up for 5 minutes at an easy walking pace before stretching. Then stretch by starting at the top of your body and working your way down. Make sure to cool down and stretch after your walk too!

Remember—start out slowly and gradually increase the speed and distance you walk—don't try walking a marathon your first time out! And no matter where you are walking, be aware of what is going on around you. 

How to Play
You've probably been walking for about as long as you've been talking. But walking isn't just a way to get from here to there, its also a great physical activity! Walking doesn't require a lot of equipment, you can do it anywhere, it is always available by just walking out your front door, and it's a great way to relax and refresh. It's also something you can do alone or with your friends and family.

If you thought walking was just putting one foot in front of the other, you were right! But check out these tips for how to walk and breathe correctly so your walk will be safer and easier.

Posture. How you hold your body is important. Stand up straight and tall. This means putting your shoulders back and relaxing them (no slouching!), and keeping your chin up and stomach in. It's a good idea to look 20 feet ahead—about the lengths of two cars. This keeps your chin up and your eyes on your path!

Taking your first steps. Start out your first step with the heel first. Then roll your foot from heel to toe and push off the toes with the next step. Bringing the opposite leg forward, repeat this again. (This may feel a little funny at first but as your muscles get stronger it gets easier.)

Arm motion. Moving or swinging your arms when you're walking can give you power and it balances what your legs are doing! Bend your elbow 90 degrees (so your arm looks like the letter "L"), while keeping your hands slightly curled. When you step, one foot moves forward and the arm opposite this foot should come forward too. As your foot goes back, bring back the opposite arm with it. Keep your elbows close to the body so you don't have "chicken wings."

Don't forget to breathe! Your breathing should have a rhythm. Inhale one deep breath for four steps and then hold that breath for two steps. Then exhale to the count of four steps, and hold it for two steps before beginning all over again. So the rhythm is — breathe in (step 1, 2, 3, 4), hold (step 1, 2) breathe out (step 1, 2, 3, 4) hold (step 1, 2).

Everyone's stride is different, so if you feel that four steps are too long or too short, adjust it to what is comfortable for you. 

We don't give a second thought to walking and breathing at the same time, but some ancient creatures, and some that are still around (like lizards), can't do both at once. Lizards have to pause when they're running in order to take breaths. 

Fun Facts
If you walk 6,000 steps each day, you will walk a mile!
Racewalking has been an Olympic sport since 1908. It is the longest foot race (31 miles!) in the Olympics.
The distance to the sun is 93.5 million miles. If you walk about 4 miles every hour (which is fairly fast) it would take you 23.4 million hours, which is 974,000 days or 2,670 years to reach the sun!

Walking, Infographic, Canada WALKS
Source: CanadaWALKS

Walking, Infographic, Canada WALKS
Source: CanadaWALKS

Walking, Infographic, Canada WALKS
Source: CanadaWALKS



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