BY MICHAEL McGUIRE
With the days getting warmer and longer, people can finally put on their shoes and experience the many health benefits of walking – which may be one of the simplest and best ways to exercise.
The American Heart Association encourages people, schools, workplaces and communities to get out and walk for at least 30 minutes and put themselves on the road to a healthier lifestyle.
Studies have shown walking more and sitting less may help people maintain a healthier weight, ward off depression and prevent serious health issues like heart disease. And a report from Harvard Medical School concluded that walking can help curb sweet cravings, boost the immune system and ease joint pain.
Consider the following tips to help make walking more fun and effective.
While many people aim for achieving an aggregate number of total steps each day, research shows that moving frequently throughout the day and taking at least one brisk, 30-minute walk also can have health benefits. That’s why people should think FIT, which stands for frequency (500 steps within seven minutes six times per day), intensity (3,000 steps within 30 minutes each day) and tenacity (at least 10,000 total steps per day). If those targets seem daunting, remember it helps to start slowly and build up over time.
Walking can also double as a chance to socialize with friends, family or co-workers. Research shows there are several advantages to recruiting a workout friend, likely because that person can hold you accountable and offer support. And starting or joining a walking group at work or in your neighborhood can prove helpful, too. Working out in a group lowers stress by 26 percent compared to working out alone.
WALK WITH A WEARABLE
Studies show that people tend to overestimate how much they exercise and underestimate sedentary time. To help understand your actual activity patterns and, ideally, reinforce positive habits to support sustained change, consider using a wearable device. This increasingly popular technology has been shown to help people remain diligent in achieving those daily step goals, while encouraging seemingly small healthy habits – each day – that can eventually translate to meaningful improvements.
Many employersoffer incentive-based wellness programs, including some that enable employees to earn more than $1,000 per year by meeting certain daily walking goals. Similarly, there are websites that enable people to earn cash rewards for walking.
Michael McGuire is the CEO of UnitedHealthcare of New York.