Most of us realize we should exercise for our health, but if you’re a beginner, embarking on a fitness regimen can be confusing, if not downright frustrating. According to the National Weight Control Registry (www.nwcr.ws), 94% of those who have successfully lost weight and kept it off simply increased their activity level, with walking being the most popular means. The American College of Sports Medicine and U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, in “The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation 2010” have both advocated for accumulating moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week. Brisk walking is a perfect way of fulfilling this recommendation.
Keep a “movement diary”
Making use of a pedometer, which is a small, inexpensive device that attaches to your waistband and counts steps, is a great way to measure the amount of walking you’re doing. Begin by wearing the pedometer every day for two weeks, recording the number of steps at the end of each day. Although the number of steps taken from one day to the next may vary, at the end of the two weeks, use the highest daily step count measured as your goal for the next two weeks. Although a pedometer will tell you how many steps you’ve taken, the effort you put into taking those steps is up to you. Consider maintaining a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation, but keep it a brisk pace.
How much is enough?
In order to achieve improved health and fitness, progress your walking program by adding 500 steps every two weeks until you attain a step count of 10,000 steps per day. If meaningful weight loss is your goal, build up to 12,000 – 15,000 steps per day. To put this in perspective, there are approximately 2,000 steps in 1 mile, and those 2,000 steps result in an average energy expenditure of 100 calories. So, 10,000 steps means 500 calories burned! As you build on the number of steps you take each day, your fitness level will improve, enabling you to cover those steps in less time. In other words, increasing your step count over time doesn’t necessarily mean the amount of time you devote to your walking program has to increase, significantly. Put the effort into gradually increasing your pace as you increase step count over the coming weeks. It’s important to note that you can split your bouts of walking, accumulating steps throughout the day, without diminishing the health and fitness benefits.
Short on ideas on how to increase step count?
Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking in the farthest space from the front doors of the grocery store or mall, getting up and moving around during T.V. commercials or while talking on the phone, walking the golf course instead of riding in a cart, taking a walk during your lunch break, taking the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator, or going for longer walks with your dog. We’re so fortunate to live in this country’s most favorable climate for getting outdoors, year-round. Take some time each day to get out and add to your step count. Remember, the more you move, the more calories you burn!
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