If you want to start exercising as a way to lose weight do you think you should:
- Take an aerobics class.
- Go for a run.
- Go for a brisk walk.
If you said (c) give yourself a pat on the back. Researchers looking at the annual English Surveys over a 12 year span concluded that a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week is more effective than any other form of exercise for keeping weight down. Supporting this, a study from the University of Warwick found that people who walk more and sit less have lower BMIs (an indicator of obesity.) The National Walkers’ Health Study also found that walkers had lower fasting blood sugar (glucose) and a 12 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Additional benefits of walking
In addition to weight loss, walking has been shown to:
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The National Walkers’ Health study found that regular walking was linked to a 7 percent reduced risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Improve memory and cognitive function. A study focusing on older adults in Japan found that after 3 months people who were prescribed daily walking exercise had significantly greater improvements in memory and executive function than people who received no exercise advice and were told just to carry on with their usual daily routine. A study published in the journal Neurology in 2010, found that walking was associated with a greater volume of gray matter in the brain, a measure of brain health.
- Lower stress and improved mood. Walking stimulates the production of neurotransmitters in the brain that help improve your mental state. One study found that a 10 minute walk outside can boost a persons mood for up to 2 hours.
How much should you walk?
Contrary to popular belief the answer isn’t 10,000 step a day. The idea of walking 10,000 steps didn’t come from scientific research. It originated in a marketing campaign for one of the first commercial pedometers. A 2016 study found people get big health benefits from walking 3000 steps a day at a moderate pace. That works out to about three brisk 10-minute walks.
If you want to reap the health benefits of walking, taking brisk 10 minute walks is a great habit to create.
What is a brisk walk?
So what exactly is a “brisk walk? The dictionary says “brisk” is an adjective meaning “active, fast, and energetic.” In case you are wondering, the dictionary says walking is “moving at a pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at once.”
Brisk walking refers to your exertion rather than your speed and is measured by your heart rate and breathing rate. For your walking pace to be considered “brisk” you need to be breathing harder than usual. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that while you should be able to speak in full sentences you shouldn’t be able to sing when walking briskly. For more mathematically inclined people brisk walking typically involves a pace of about 2.7 miles per hour or about 100 steps per minute.
How do you walk briskly?
Whilst you have been walking for most of your life there is actually technique involved in walking! You need to think about your posture, your arms and your stride.
Posture. Stand up straight without arching your back. Do not lean forward or back. Keep your eyes forward and focus 20 feet ahead. Your head should remain level as you walk, all motion should take place from the shoulders down.
Arms. Bend your arms 90 degrees. Move your arms in opposition to your feet. When your right foot goes forward, your right arm goes back and your left arm goes forward. Your arm motion should be mostly forward-and-back (not diagonal.) Keep your arms and elbows close to your body rather than pointing outward.
Stride. Strike with your heel and roll through the step from heel to toe. Give a powerful push-off with your toe at the end of your stride. Resist the urge to over stride when you are trying to walk faster. You get power in your stride by pushing off with your rear foot. Your forward foot should strike closer to your body Your hips should rotate with each stride front-to-back, not side-to-side. This hip motion will come naturally as part of a good stride and push off.
How to make a brisk walk a habit.
Schedule it. The great thing about brisk walks is they can be as short as 10 minutes. The start of any habit is a reminder. Find periods in your day where you have 10 minutes to spare and set a reminder to go for a walk.
Make it social. Inviting other people to join you on your brisk walk has a few benefits. Firstly by making a commitment to someone else you are far more likely to follow through. Secondly the happiness benefits of walking are increased with social interaction.
Park farther away. When you go to work or the grocery store get in to the habit of parking at the back of the lot.
Never miss two days in a row. Make a brisk walk part of your daily routine. If for some reason you miss a day, make it a rule that you have to find a way to take a brisk walk the next day. Get up early, go to the mall for a walk, put on a wetsuit – whatever you need to do.
A brisk walk is a form of exercise everyone can do – and it has proven benefits. You don’t need any special equipment and it only takes 10 minutes. You can even start today!