Walk your way to better health!

October 05, 2012 By W. Richard McQueen Jr., M.D.

Have you ever considered walking your way to better health? Walking can be one of the simplest ways to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine. All you need is a pair of shoes to get started, no special equipment or training required.

Studies have shown that regular exercise can improve your health and reduce your risk for chronic illnesses. Walking for at least 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for developing hypertension and diabetes, and will improve your overall cardiovascular health. It can lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol. In addition, walking can help keep your bones strong, reducing your risk for osteoporosis. It is also associated with mood improvement, thus helping with problems such as depression and anxiety. Along with a healthy diet, walking will help you achieve and maintain your ideal body weight.

With today's busy schedules, it may be difficult to find 30 minutes of your day to dedicate to an exercise routine. If you can't do it all at once, consider breaking it up throughout the day. Add walking to different parts of your daily routine. When you arrive to work or go to the store, consider parking farther away from the entrance and walking the rest of the way. Think about walking past the elevator and instead climbing the stairs. Or consider a short walk after you get home as a way of unwinding from the day. Make it a social event and invite family members or friends to join you. Try to vary your routine and keep it fun so you will look forward to it every day. The benefits to your health will be numerous and what could be easier?

Consider setting goals for yourself. One way to keep track of this would be by using a pedometer to measure your steps and distance throughout the day. Knowing how far you walk daily and gradually increasing your goals – in time/distance walked – and meeting them can keep you motivated. If you have been inactive for a long time, take it easy in the beginning and set realistic goals for yourself.

As with any exercise routine, do not forget to keep yourself well hydrated. If you are new to regular exercise and are 50 or older or suffer from a chronic medical condition, please check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.

Dr. McQueen is a member of The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) medical staff. For referrals to HOCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 800.321.6244.