Recent research has shown that there are more adverse health effects among those with a sedentary lifestyle (i.e., a 9 to 5 desk job), even in people who regularly engage in formal exercise (Neighmond 2011 via NPR; Blaire 2010), especially women (Montemurri 2011). Don't get me wrong, I appreciate laziness as much as the next person, but the body just doesn't respond well to large periods of inactivity. It shuts down; it hibernates (your metabolism even slows); it forgets it can move.
I recently discovered the power of the 10-minute walk. I'm not going to say that adding these walks to my daily routine is the entire reason that I feel fit or that, through them, I have discovered the meaning of life; but engaging in these brief moments of activity on a regular basis has been beneficial to my life in many ways. In fact, studies have shown that breaking up your sedentariness (Bravo TV couch marathon sound familiar?) with short bouts of movement, like a 10-minute walk, does wonders for your health (Bebbington 2011 via WebMD; Wen 2011; Healy 2008). Reminding your body that it can move is healthy, exhilarating, and powerful.
You may be surprised that my first 'fitness commentary' is about something so simple, but I am a firm believer in making small, positive changes towards healthy living. It doesn't matter how old you are, what shape you are in, what type of job you have, or what your daily schedule is like: you can fit in a 10-minute walk. You can.
And if you aren't bursting with motivation yet, here are my top reasons why you should give it a whirl and tips on how to do it.
- Health. Although, in my opinion, these short walks should not entirely replace formal exercise, walking for even small amounts can lower LDL, raise HDL, lower blood pressure, reduce diabetes risk, help manage weight, and reduce your chances of dying (Bebbington 2011 via WebMD; Wen 2011; Healy 2008). And, not dying is a very good thing.
- Calories. Depending on your weight and how fast you walk, a 10-minute walk can burn 25-50 calories. If you do one walk every day for a week, you will burn 175-350 calories. That's a Chick-fil-A Icedream cone - and if that isn't worth 10 minutes, I don't know what is.
- Energy. According to the American Heart Association, after six months, women who took brisk 10-minute walks every day reported 18% more energy than those who did not.
- Cool Down Emotionally. Walk it off, yo.
- Gauge Satiety. I love a post-meal walk. Sometimes I wabble through these without much effort, but most of the time it is just what I need to digest and to determine whether I ate too much or too little - away from the food itself.
- Get Outside. Did someone say 'sunshine time'?
- Organize Your Thoughts. I spend the first half of my post-lunch walk thinking about something fun (e.g., my blog, boys, what I'm having for dinner) and the second half thinking about work. This helps me organize my thoughts and re-focus on the next task.
- Schedule It. Set a daily walking time and stick to it. I always take a walk immediately after lunch and as soon as I get home, no questions asked.
- Involve Others. Dogs work well too.
- Make It Unavoidable. I keep a pair of comfortable shoes under my desk at work so I can easily change for walks without any excuses. In the evening, I do my walk before I do anything else, because once I sit down, I am down.
- Make Goals. During the week, I aim for two short walks per day. On the weekends, I aim for one.
- Force It. Park far away and by the time you walk there and back, you can cross a walk off your list. And always (well...usually) take the stairs.
- Make a Route. Time 5 minutes out and turn around. Do this at work and at home. Now you don't have to think about it. It doesn't have to be exactly 10 minutes (more is better), find a loop around your neighborhood that suits you and make that your go-to walk.
- It Is No Big Deal. Don't treat these extra walks like the are anything special. Anyone can walk 10 minutes anywhere or anytime. You aren't 'working out', you are just walking. It is no big deal, so just do it.
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