At the top of my list for suggested daily exercise is walking.
Over the years I have made an observation.
This observation is coming from years of unofficially collecting data. I've conducted thousands of client weigh ins, coaching, body measurements, goal setting, celebrating, lifestyle assessments, and adjusting fitness programs.
There tends to be a reigning theme.
How much a person moves outside the gym has a bigger impact on fitness than what they do in the gym.
Specifically, there is a stark difference in weight management, mood and energy levels in individuals who sit all day (for work or otherwise) and those who do not.
Even if You Workout
Even those who go to the gym four or five times a week, but sit the majority of the day can struggle to feel energy boosts and enjoy weight management.
When in comparison to those who go two or three times a week, but have an active job or an active home life. They get more movement throughout the course of their day and not necessarily through more exercise. This group tends to reach fitness goals and feel better faster.
What is the difference?
Movement. Movement promotes better circulation, hormone balancing, hunger control, metabolism activation, and overall more caloric usage - among other things.
Of course, starting fitness level is a factor. Muscle mass plays a big roll, along with medical conditions. But comparing apples to apples, movement is King (or Queen) when we are talking optimal fitness.
Those who are sedentary most of the day have an uphill battle with energy and fitness goals.
Those who move more throughout the day, hit fitness goals faster and generally feel better.
Why I Recommend Walking
What qualifies as "movement" is a variety of things. Anything from an active job, to cleaning out closets, to gardening. Anything that requires physical exertion to keep the metabolism engaged and firing throughout the day.
While not everyone is in a position to complete house chores all day, work on a construction site, or perform more impact exercises - even the busiest professional can find time to walk and will reap the benefits.
What the Science Says
A recent study at Harvard University agreed with my opinion. They shared five reasons walking improves overall health when incorporated into daily living.
1. It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes
In fact, in 12,000 individuals who carry obesity promoting genes cut the effects of those genes by 50% - by walking briskly for an hour a day.
That is significant and should be considered. Obesity is the bedrock of many health risks that reach far beyond a waist size. Walking combats those risks.
2. It helps tame a sweet tooth
Ever heard of stress eating? A recent studied showed a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate. It even reduced the amount of chocolate and other sugary snack eaten during stressful situations.
15 minutes can be accomplished regardless of job or otherwise. We can all squeeze out 15 minutes a day to get in front of cravings and mindless eating.
3. It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer
Research shows that all physical activity lowers risk for cancer. But recently an American Cancer Society study zeroed in on walking. They found that "women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week".
This study brings us back around to an hour a day bench mark.
4. It eases joint pain
I have a hip impingement (pincer type). It can be quite painful at times. It has been tempting at times not move when it flares up or just sore from exercise.
However, research has shown (and I have found) that not moving compounds the pain. Specifically walking helps warm the area, relax the joint and surrounding soft tissue.
Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain. Walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place.
That can be broken down into bite size pieces. A mile a day, with one rest day. Or combine some of the miles if you're up for it to have extra days off.
5. It boosts immune function
COVID has brought interest in the immune system to the forefront. With the common cold and flu's being even more aggressive this season, many are looking for answers to protect themselves and boost immunity.
The answers are predominantly holistic. Your nutrition matters. Your vitamin levels matter. Your rest time matters. Your exercise matters. Your hygiene matters.
Did you know walking just 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, qualifies as exercise when we are talking about boosting our immunity?
A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who did this, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less.
How to Add Walking Into Your Day
Like all new habits, this effort needs to be intentional.
I recommend putting your walk on your schedule - like any other event in your life. And respect it the same way.
Walk the dog
Walk during your lunch break
Park farther from events
Meet up with friends at a park
Walk directly after work
Walk first thing in the morning
Walk laps while your kids are at sports practices
Walk to venues that are close enough to do so
Walk directly after your gym sessions (ideal)
Walk while you listen to presentations
Walk on a treadmill in your office
Walk on a treadmill in your family area
When considering important fitness goals such as reducing excess body fat, improving mobility, increasing stamina, improving longevity, mood & energy - the more a person can move in general will dictate how quickly they can achieve these things.
TIP: Add one walk to your schedule a week until you reach your desired goal.