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One Foot in Front of the Other

One Foot in Front of the Other

How Daily Walks Improve Overall Health and Tips for Building the Habit 

By Deborah Holmén, M.Ed., NBCT 

Establishing habits that transform physical health can be challenging. However, there is a simple solution that can have a significant positive impact on overall well-being: walking.  

Walking Towards Wellness 

Walking is not only a convenient and accessible form of exercise but also has a myriad of health benefits. It is an excellent way to maintain a healthy weight. By incorporating regular walks into a daily routine, walkers can burn calories and shed those extra pounds effortlessly. Furthermore, walking boosts cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. During a brisk walk, the heart pumps faster, improving blood circulation and strengthening heart muscles. 

Dr. Kevin Farmer, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at UF Health said walking is a great way to stay in shape without putting extra stress on joints. “Walking is a lower impact activity. I think any activity that adds some cardiovascular aspect is beneficial; walking and running improve bone health by strengthening. You know, strengthening bones and patients that need to deal with that. If someone has a knee injury or some arthritis in the knee and some cartilage problems, a lower-impact activity is a better choice,” he said.  

Farmer added, “I do know that most studies looking at weight loss and the most consistent activity associated with weight loss tends to be walking. Many higher aerobic activities tend to lead to increased hunger, leading to more eating, which may not help you achieve the goal. Looking at weight loss studies, walking tends to be the more predictable. As far as attaining those goals, that slow weight loss progressions. So, if that’s your goal, having, you know, adding 30 to 45 minutes of walking every day, every other day, would be very beneficial.”  

Walking also contributes to mental well-being. The simple act of spending time outdoors amidst nature has been proven to have remarkable mental health benefits. Engaging in a tranquil stroll relieves stress, increases dopamine levels and uplifts moods. It is a refreshing respite from the monotonous humdrum of daily life that brings a sense of calm and serenity. 

Stepping it Up 

Technology can be an ally in enhancing a daily walking routine. Farmer shared some innovations in gait analysis at UF Health. “We conduct gait evaluations for individuals who have lower extremity issues or problems that may affect their gait. These issues could potentially lead to other problems, so it’s important to address them. If you suspect you may have gait issues, we encourage you to consider having an evaluation,” he said. 

Farmer explained the ease of this application. “We have patients walk on a treadmill for 3D evaluations. We can look at foot strike and how exactly the foot hits the ground. Based on that information, we can get orthotics designed to help improve the gait pattern and unload parts of the foot that may be problematic and produce injury or pain. There are many ways to fine-tune and enhance their ability to improve their movement. Looking at it biomechanically, three-dimensionally and improving some issues people may have with their gait patterns,” he said.   

Like countless apps, other technologies can track steps and distance and even provide motivating and engaging audio-guided walks. Setting goals and challenges can transform daily walks into exciting adventures. 

See Also

Invest in a comfortable pair of walking shoes to make walking even more enjoyable. Dr. Farmer often suggests proper footwear for patients. 

“They will provide ample support and cushioning, ensuring a pleasant foot and joint experience. We have therapists who specialize in running and walking evaluations. They may see an issue that a specific shoe would be better, like ASICS or New Balance, to name some popular brands,” he said. 

Dress appropriately for the weather and bring a water bottle to stay hydrated. 

Left, Right, Left… Consistency is Key 

  • Start with short walks and gradually increase duration and intensity. 
  • Set aside dedicated time each day to walk. Soon, it will become a cherished part of the daily routine. 
  • Listening to soft music or a podcast can make the time pass enjoyably. Just be sure to listen at a volume where surroundings can still be heard. 

Walking is an activity that not only benefits physical health but also contributes to mental well-being. From weight management and cardiovascular health to reducing stress, the advantages of walking are endless. So, lace up those shoes and embark on this beautiful journey towards improved health and vitality. 

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