They’re two great activities that go great together: Walking and talking for health and happiness! As the days grow longer and the weather gets kinder, we simply can’t wait to head outside and get moving. Add a schedule and a buddy and… voila, you’ve got an exercise plan that’s great for both body and mind. Here’s the 4-1-1.
WHAT are the health benefits of walking?
The answers can be found in countless articles and books. Walking is great for body and mind — and it’s inexpensive, requiring just a bit of planning and a good pair of sneakers. Here are just a few more physical fitness benefits of walking:
- lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- stronger bones and muscles
- depression-fighting brain chemicals
- improved mobility, balance and endurance
- better memory and sleep quality
- weight loss / healthy weight maintenance
WHEN is it best to take those steps?
The BEST time to walk is ANY time you walk – the more regularly, the better. So, pay attention to your own biorhythms and lifestyle when choosing a time to hit the pavement. That said, walking in the morning has a lot to recommend it, including:
- providing an energy boost to help you stay more active all day
- being the optimal time to metabolize fat
- reducing food cravings
- ticking the exercise box at the start of the day, thus creating a routine you’re more likely to maintain
WHY walk with a friend (or friends)?
Just as exercise is good for you, taking care of your mental health is also very important. Studies show that people with strong social support networks tend to manage stress better. Walking with a partner or pals is a two-for-one deal: You increase fitness and enhance friendships at the same time. Here are some reasons why a walking buddy is wonderful:
- providing structure and accountability
- finding new challenges, such as different or longer routes
- setting and celebrating goals
- offering support for non-exercise problems, such as parenting and job challenges
- enjoying purposeful companionship (and maybe even a few laughs)
HOW do you make an optimal group walking plan?
READY to give walking & talking for health and happiness a try? Reach out to a couple of friends. Be honest about your fitness level and goals. Here are questions to consider when forming a walking group:
- Will walking be your primary form of exercise or an occasional alternative to other activities?
- Are you seeking to improve your cardiovascular fitness and lose weight, or do you want to focus more on mental health goals, such as getting outside and staying connected?
- What is your current level of fitness and at what challenge level do you want to begin your walking endeavors?
- Would you like to set a training goal, such as participating in an upcoming 5k walk?
- Are you geared up for outdoor fun with sunscreen and sunglasses? (Here are some tips on protecting your peepers.)
GET SET by collectively creating a walking plan. Scour the web for tips and suggestions for warm-ups and cool-downs, stretches and strengthening exercises, distances and programs. There are even downloadable charts and plans. Create an online calendar or simple email or text thread to make communication easy – and to encourage that all-important accountability.
GO! Day 1. Week 2. Month 3. With a pal at your side and a plan in hand, you’ve got this. Go you!
Note: This article is intended to provide inspiration for reaching fitness goals. Be sure to do your own research and talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.