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Walking: The Underrated Exercise

Published on: June 1, 2024

Walking often gets ignored in the fitness world, overshadowed by intense workouts and trendy gym routines. But this simple activity has so many benefits that it’s a great addition to any daily routine, as well as the perfect place to start when looking at improving your health and fitness. In this blog post, I’ll share five reasons why I’m making an effort to walk more every day and a ton of practical tips for increasing your step count, especially for those of us who spend most of our time sitting at a desk.

How Many Steps Do You Need in a Day?

You’ve probably heard that in order to be healthy, you should aim to walk 10,000 steps per day.

This number started as a Japanese marketing idea in the 1960s, but it turns out it’s a solid goal according to health studies. Walking 10,000 steps a day is about 8 kilometers, which is great for your heart, helps with weight management, and boosts your mental health. However, recent research shows that even aiming for 7,000-8,000 steps a day can still give you lots of health benefits, especially if you have a desk job or spend a big part of your day sitting down. The key thing I want you to remember is: no matter where you’re starting off in your step goals, aim for consistent movement throughout the day, and gradually increase your steps to match your fitness level. If your average daily steps are 3,000, work your way up to 4,000 and so on. Every little bit helps.

Why I’m Incorporating More Walking into My Daily Routine

1. It Improves Cardiovascular Health

Walking is a low-impact exercise that helps to lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and reduce the risk of heart disease. By simply walking for 30 minutes a day, you can strengthen your heart and boost overall cardiovascular fitness.

2. It Boosts Mental Well-being

Walking isn’t just good for the body; it’s great for the mind too. Studies have shown that walking can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. The rhythmic nature of walking, combined with the opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy nature, provides a natural mood lift and mental clarity. 

3. It Helps Manage Weight 

While walking may not burn as many calories as more intense forms of exercise, it still contributes to weight management. Walking increases metabolism and helps maintain muscle mass, which is crucial for a healthy weight. 

4. It Enhances Creativity and Productivity

Walking has been shown to improve creativity and productivity. Taking a break from the desk to walk can lead to bursts of inspiration and new ideas. This is particularly beneficial during work hours when mental blocks occur. Personally, I’ve found that some of my best ideas come to me while I’m walking, away from the confines of my office/house.

5. It Improves Joint and Muscle Health

Regular walking strengthens the muscles around the joints, increasing flexibility and reducing the risk of injuries. It’s an excellent way to keep joints healthy, especially as we age. For someone like me who spends a lot of time sitting, walking provides much-needed movement to keep my body agile and pain-free (even though I’m not that old, yet!).

What’s All the Fuss About Fart Walks?

In recent months, you might have heard about the viral concept of “fart walks”, walking around while letting out flatulence. While it might sound silly (and I know a 11 year old who would fully hop onto this family activity if I suggested it), fart walks are beneficial for our health and well-being. 

For starters, it promotes regular walking with all the benefits already mentioned, but by making it fun and less formal, fart walks encourage people to get up and move more often. Walking helps stimulate the digestive system which can help move gas through the intestine and out of the body. So less discomfort, less gas and less bloating! On top of that, we know that laughter is a natural stress reliever and fart walks provide plenty of opportunities for giggles. It also turns a potentially embarrassing situation into something fun and lighthearted. Fart walks can be a hilarious way to bond with friends or family. The combination of physical activity, fresh air, and laughter can do wonders for your mood. 

Okay, back to some more serious info...

Tips for Desk-bound Workers

For those of us with jobs that require long hours at a desk, finding time to walk can be challenging. Here are some practical tips to help incorporate more walking into your daily routine:

  1. Take regular breaks – Set a timer to remind yourself to take a short walk every hour. Even a five-minute walk around the office can make a difference. Use your phone or computer to set hourly reminders to stand up and walk around for a few minutes. A quick lap around the office or even a stroll to the water cooler can make a big difference. Instead of taking a coffee or snack break at your desk, walk to a local café or around the building. This not only adds steps but also gives you a refreshing change of scenery.
  2. Set a timer to get up to do desk movements like squats, lunges or stretches. Incorporate simple exercises and stretches at your desk. Marching in place, leg lifts, or seated marches can help increase your step count and keep your muscles engaged. 
  3. Walking lunch – Instead of sitting at your desk or in the cafeteria, eat your lunch while walking. Choose easy-to-carry foods and take a stroll in a nearby park or around the office. It will help refresh your mind for the afternoon.
  4. Errand walks – Combine errands with walking. If you need to run errands during your break, choose ones that allow you to walk. For example, walk to the post office, bank, or a nearby store.
  5. Start a workplace walking group so you have people to lean on. Schedule regular group walks before work, during lunch, or after work. This can be a fun and social way to increase your step count.
  6. Start a walking meeting. Whenever possible, turn meetings into walking meetings. Instead of sitting in a conference room, take your discussions on the go. Walking meetings can enhance creativity and collaboration while adding steps to your day. Depending on your type of work, you could also try walking appointments. This works especially well for informal or one-on-one meetings.
  7. Walk and talk – If possible, take phone calls while walking. Whether it’s a work call or a personal one, walking while talking is a great way to stay active. Use a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone for calls so you can walk around while you talk. This can be done indoors or outside if the weather is nice.
  8. If you’re in a large building, rather than sending a message or calling, go visit your coworker at their cubicle
  9. Rearrange your work area – Is your filing cabinet, printer (anything you use often enough) within reach or within chair-rolling distance? Move it further so you need to get up to reach it. Lock your chair wheels as a reminder. If possible, arrange your workspace so that essential items are not within arm’s reach. This forces you to get up and walk to retrieve them.
  10. Ditch the typical desk chair – Get a standing desk, desk bike, feet pedals, walking pad, etc. These setups can help you accumulate steps without taking time away from your tasks. While not exactly walking, but feet pedals keep your legs moving and can help increase your overall activity level. 
  11. Make a point to use the washroom, printer, etc. that’s the furthest from your desk. If your office building has multiple floors, use the restroom on a different floor and take the stairs.
  12. Walk while waiting – If you find yourself waiting for a meeting to start, on hold during a phone call, or waiting for your lunch to heat up in the microwave, use that time to walk around instead of staying seated.
  13. Pacing – Pace around your office or home while brainstorming, talking on the phone, or during virtual meetings (if appropriate). This can help you accumulate steps without needing to leave your workspace.
  14. Walk while watching – If you have the opportunity to watch a training video or attend a webinar that doesn’t require you to be at your desk, do it while walking on a treadmill or in a space where you can move around.
  15. Use the Stairs – Opt for stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. 
  16. Park further away – Park at the far end of the parking lot when going to work, school, store, etc. 
  17. Active commute – If you live close enough, walk or bike to work. If driving is necessary, consider parking a few blocks away and walking the rest of the way.
  18. If you use public transportation, get off at a stop early and walk the rest of the way
  19. If your intention is to go for a walk after work but your plans often get derailed, have your walk right from the office or stop somewhere (park, trail, beach) on your way home. That way, distractions from home won’t keep you from walking like you set out to do.
  20. Walking routes: Explore different walking routes around your office. Find nearby parks, walking trails, or even just scenic streets to make your walks more enjoyable. Having different routes can keep your walks interesting and prevent them from becoming monotonous.
  21. Walking rewards – Reward yourself with a short walk for completing tasks or reaching milestones throughout the day. This can help break up your work and keep you motivated.
  22. Set a step goal – Use a pedometer or a fitness tracker to set and monitor your daily step goals. Having a tangible target can motivate you to find creative ways to add more steps to your day. Set specific walking goals for different times of the day. For instance, aim to walk a certain number of steps before lunch, during the afternoon break, and after work.
  23. Stair challenges – Challenge yourself to take the stairs multiple times a day. For example, set a goal to climb a certain number of flights of stairs by the end of the day.
  24. Fitness challenge – Participate in or organize step challenges within your workplace. Use fitness tracking apps to compete with colleagues and set daily or weekly step goals.
  25. Gym breaks – If your office has a gym, take short breaks to walk on the treadmill or use other cardio equipment. Even a quick 10-minute session can add steps.
  26. Wear comfortable shoes – Keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes at your desk. Wearing them can make it easier and more comfortable to take spontaneous walks throughout the day.
  27. Practice walking meditation to combine mindfulness with movement. Focus on your breath and the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, which can be both relaxing and invigorating.
  28. Move during ads – If you watch TV or videos during your break, get up and walk around during the commercial breaks or in between episodes.

The Bottom Line

Walking is the cheapest and easiest way to improve your overall health. If you’re someone who spends most of their days sitting, incorporating some of these strategies into your daily routine can play a big role in your step count and reap the numerous physical and mental benefits. 

It’s time to recognize walking for what it truly is: an underrated but highly effective form of exercise. So, lace up your walking shoes and take the first step towards feeling healthier and happier. 

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Kaitlyn is a registered dietitian and fitness enthusiast dedicated to helping busy women improve their health through sustainable habits.

She’s seen firsthand how difficult it can be to balance a demanding schedule with a healthy lifestyle. That’s why she is passionate about empowering women with the knowledge and skills they need to prioritize their health, even when life gets hectic.

She aims to spread the word about the power of habits and to make healthier living more manageable for busy women who are trying to do all of the things, like herself.

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