By Lauren Aloha and Mary Jane Williams
January marks the New Year, and it’s s a time many of us decide to make resolutions to improve our health. January is also a time when we don’t have to let the winter doldrums get in our way. This year, let’s change our perception of winter and embrace our city as get outside to walk more.
The American Heart Association recommends accumulating 30 minutes of moderate activity throughout the day, on most days of the week, for health benefits. Walking is considered a moderate activity and benefits include:
• Reduces the risk of Coronary Artery Disease
• Improves Blood Pressure and blood sugar levels
• Maintains body weight and reduces the risk of obesity
• Decreases the risk for breast cancer, colon cancer, and Type 2 Diabetes
• Improves sleeping
• Enhances mental well being
Walking is something everyone can do; our bodies were made to move. Walking costs little to no money and can be done almost anywhere, at any time. Walking, in comfortable jeans, around town or, in our uniform on our way to work, is still considered physical activity.
Although it’s a New Year, our hectic schedules, balancing work and family, remain the same. So, how do you fit the recommended 2 hours and 30 minutes of physical activity every week? Break up the thirty minutes into smaller intervals throughout the day such as, three 10-minute walks, or two 15 minutes walks. You still get the same benefits. Remember, a brief 10 minute walk is better than sitting on the couch for 10 minutes.
With that being said, it’s time to get up off the couch, or away from your desk or wherever you are, and start moving. Set a goal to walk as many steps per day as you can. An active individual walks 7,000- 10,000 steps per day (about 5 miles) which will burn about 2,000 to 3,500 extra calories per week (burning 3,500 calories is equivalent losing one pound). The average sedentary person ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 steps per day. If you fall into this category, and 10,000 steps seem unattainable, don’t worry. Set smaller goals for yourself such as adding 2,000 steps each day by the end of the month.
Today’s technology makes tracking our diet and physical activity easier than ever. Current online and smart phone applications are available to track your progress and keep following your goals. Smart phone applications and online tracking tools such as Sparkpeople.com and Supertracker.gov are free tools that fit into our busy, on-the-go lifestyle. These tools allow us to be mindful and aware of what we eat, what time of day we eat, and how many calories we are burning through physical activity. Certain “apps” even act as pedometers. People who begin a walking routine often develop healthier eating habits.
These tools also allow you to see how many calories you burn through physical activity. The average 150 lbs person will burn 160 calories walking at a moderate pace of 3 mph for 30 minutes. 160 calories is equivalent to a small apple and 2 tablespoons of nonfat yogurt with cinnamon or half of a Dunkin Donuts bagel (without cream cheese or butter). The message here is to be mindful of what you eat. Although walking burns extra calories, it does not make up for a poor diet.
Check back tomorrow for more healthy winter walking tips!
Lauren Ahola is a dietetic intern at BPHC from Simmons College, and Mary Jane Williams, MS, is a BPHC Wellness Coordinator.