Wondering how to get started with an exercise program? Unsure where to begin, what to do, how long to go, or what activities are the best? Maybe you’re one of the masses trying to put together a home gym and struggling to find equipment? With all the pandemic news we see daily, surely you have heard that regular exercise can positively impact your mental health and well-being. But with no access to the gym or a limited supply of gym equipment in your home, what do you do? Starting a workout program can be intimidating but doesn’t have to be! I always suggest starting with one of the easiest modes of physical activity: walking.
Walking is something most of us can do since it’s low-impact and doesn’t require any equipment. Having a good pair of sneakers is helpful but I’ve seen people walk in sandals and live to tell about it. Walking has many benefits when done regularly. Walking has shown to help lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of cancers, and boost immunity function. It also improves your mental health by lowering anxiety levels, fatigue and improving sleep quality. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it’s recommended to get at least 150 minutes/week of moderate-intense activity (brisk walking) and 2 days/week of strength training. So, you know the recommendations, now what?
10,000 Steps. We’ve all heard this number for years and have elevated it to this “magical” number that we need to shoot for per day for optimal health. But haven’t you ever wondered where exactly this number comes from? An article recently published by WSJ, reported information suggesting this number is not all it’s cracked up to be or even based on scientific data. 10,000 steps were first popularized by Japanese pedometers in the 1960s made under the name Manpo-kei, which simply translates to “10,000 steps.” So, how many steps does it really take to better one’s health? The average American walks 3,000 – 4,000 steps/day which equates to 1.5-2 miles. A study published in Dec 2019 by the US National Library of Medicine found that individuals who walked 4,400 steps/day had a 41% lower risk of death than those who completed 2,700 steps/day. The same study showed an additional increase when steps increased to 7,500 steps/day, however benefits tend to level off beyond the 7,500. So, while you’ll most definitely expend more calories when you take more steps, there’s not a lot of additional health benefits seen beyond 7,500 steps/day.
As you begin any exercise program, one key is to start slow and be consistent. You can increase your steps by doing some very simple things:
- Take the dog for a walk
- Park your car further away
- Take the stairs
- Take 5-10 min “walk” breaks/hour while at work
How do you plan on reaching your step count today?