With an increased focus on practicing healthy habits – such as washing hands frequently and staying home when sick to help avoid spreading COVID-19 – it’s important to remain mindful about the importance of daily walking.
In fact, a report from Harvard Medical School concluded that walking can help boost the immune system, ease joint pain and curb cravings for high-sugar foods, which may contribute to inflammation and disease. Plus, studies have shown walking more and sitting less may help people maintain a healthier weight.
April is Move More Month, an annual celebration established to encourage people and communities to walk for at least 30 minutes* each day and put themselves on the road to a healthier lifestyle. With that in mind, here are three tips people in Arizona can consider to help make walking part of your daily routine during April and year-round:
Stay Active at Home: Even if you are spending more time at home, it is crucial to still stay active and not fall into the trap of only binging the latest TV series or movie. Remember to take short walks frequently throughout the day, aiming for six separate “mini-walks” of at least 300 to 500 steps. To enhance cardiovascular fitness, aim for at least one “brisk walk” of at least 2,000 to 3,000 steps within 30 minutes each day. To help build endurance, work toward 8,000 to 10,000 aggregate steps per day.
Start Small and Dream Big: If those targets seem daunting, remember it helps to start slowly and build up over time. And don’t discount walking compared to running: Maintaining a quick walking pace has been shown to be on par with running when it comes to lowering the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. If you are in good health and want to push yourself, think about someday planning a trip (once the global pandemic ends) to explore one of our nation’s top “bucket list” hikes, such as the Kalalau Trail in Hawaii or the Grand Canyon “Rim to Rim.” While it might seem mundane to only walk around your home or immediate neighborhood for the time being, studies show that setting – and writing down – long-term goals may help promote a healthier lifestyle.
Identify “Intrinsic” and “Extrinsic” Motivators: In general, people are motivated by a combination of “intrinsic” factors, such as wanting to maintain a healthy weight, and extrinsic ones, such as financial rewards. Walking likely offers several intrinsic motivators given research has shown consistent movement may help ward off depression and prevent issues like heart disease. If you need external motivation, check with your employer about incentive-based wellness programs, including ones that provide financial rewards for meeting certain daily walking goals. Plus, during April, people can go to uhcwalkingmaps.com, sign the pledge to walk more and become eligible for a chance to win one of more than 100 walking-related prizes, including a Peloton® “Works Package” (plus two-year subscription) or an Apple Watch®.**
Following these tips may help you achieve those daily step goals during these turbulent times, while encouraging seemingly small healthy habits that can eventually translate to meaningful improvements.
Dr. Anne Docimo is the chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare, and Diana Nyad is founder and executive director of EverWalk.
*Check with your doctor to determine what activity level is right for you.
**Participation in any UnitedHealthcare product or program is not a requirement to participate in the sweepstakes.