The path to a healthier life begins with just one step… as long as that first step is followed by another, and another and another. Park in the farthest spot, take the stairs instead of the escalator or give the dog a longer walk. The small choices you make today add up to better health tomorrow.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, along with Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is promoting the health benefits of walking for individuals, which can in turn, help control health care costs for everyone. “WalkingWorks” is an effort to encourage Kansans of all ages to begin or continue a walking program.
Medical research shows that people who use walking as a fitness program can have a positive influence on many chronic conditions and diseases, including:
- Coronary heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Breast and colon cancer
Walking also reduces stress and anxiety, and helps lower blood pressure.
You don’t have to be a “power walker” to receive the health benefits of walking. Rather, it is best to find a comfortable, rhythmic pace that you can maintain throughout your walk.
Here are some tips to consider when developing your walking program.
- Create walking routes. Make it scenic so you won’t get bored, and consider the terrain. Develop several routes for both variety and safety.
- Create a schedule. Schedule times and days to walk as you would any other important event on your weekly calendar. You’ll be more likely to continue your walking program when it becomes part of your normal routine.
- Set goals. Begin by trying to comfortably walk one mile in 15 minutes, then work toward two miles in 30 minutes and three miles in 45 minutes.
- Put on your walking shoes. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and offer good support.
- Proper posture. Good posture will help you decrease fatigue and help prevent injuries. For best results, make sure your shoulders are square, head is erect, eyes look forward; elbows back and close to the body; back straight; and stomach and buttocks tucked in.
- Have water handy. Carry a bottle of water so you can avoid dehydration.
- Stretch. Prepare for your walk by doing some side bends and trunk rotations.
- Safety. Remain alert to your surroundings, and avoid overgrown, poorly lit or deserted places. Carry an ID and cell phone, or change to make a call. If possible, walk with a companion or a large dog. Wear reflective clothing at night.
- Talk with your doctor. If you have a chronic health condition or haven’t seen a health care provider recently, you might want to check with him or her before starting any new exercise program.