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Archive for the ‘Walking and Health Benefits’ Category

A 2008 study conducted by Western Washington University psychology professor Ira Hyman found that 75 % of walkers who were talking on a cell phone did not see the colorfully dressed clown riding a unicycle in the same open plaza that they were walking through. 

This study followed a related study by Hyman that reported that walking cell phone users were more distracted than those walking and listening to music devices, those walking in pairs or those walking alone.  Furthermore the study reported that walking cell phone users were slow and zigzagging as they walked.  Professor Hyman considered whether “they had a harder time walking because they were not as plugged into the world around them.” (1)    

Do you frequently walk while talking on your cell phone?  In our busy lives we often try to multi-task by walking and making calls to a spouse, friend, family member or work associate.  The problem is that talking on a cell phone while walking can prevent you from receiving many of the benefits that daily walking has to offer. 

Downsides of Multi-Tasking 

Have you ever noticed that if you are talking on your cell phone while walking once your route is done you have no recollection of actually ‘being there? 

Professor Hyman’s study reports that the walking / phone talking combo results in slower, less purposeful walking.  If you are walking slower than normal, then you are short-changing your heart and lungs from the aerobic health benefits that walking offers.  

Talking on the phone while walking might prevent the stress reduction benefits that come from walking and it may increase your stress levels if you are having a dreaded or confrontational call or you are talking to someone who frequently bombards you with their stressful life. 

Walking and talking on the phone doesn’t allow for a mind time-out.  My favorite part of walking is letting my thoughts roam free to day dream.  Its amazing how your brain will problem-solve or come up with great ideas for home or work when you give yourself some time for random thought. 

If you are talking on the phone while walking outside you probably aren’t appreciating the emergence of spring flowers, how the buds are plumping up on the trees, how fast the clouds are moving across the sky or all of the interesting characters you see walking down a city sidewalk.  You are not experiencing your surroundings – you are not present in the moment. 

Let’s face it; if the subjects in the study didn’t see a flamboyantly dressed clown while talking on the phone, it is safe to say that you won’t notice someone who could be a threat to you because they can tell you aren’t paying attention. 

How to Free Your Daily Walk from the Phone 

Now that you know how much you are short-changing yourself from daily walking benefits by using your cell phone while walking what can you do to stop? 

Try to leave your phone at home, at your desk or in the car.  If you feel safe and/or there are other people that could assist you in an emergency where you walk, try to leave the phone behind.  Do you really have to be available during the time that you will be walking?  Liberate yourself from the phone.  Enjoy the freedom. 

Screen your calls and only answer ‘emergency’ calls.  If you feel safer keeping your phone with you during your daily walk try to not answer incoming calls.  Let voice mail pick up the call.  Put the phone on ‘silent.’  If you must answer the call keep the call short or tell the caller you will have to call back. 

Make calls only during your ‘cool-down.’  If you absolutely have to make a call try to call only during the last few minutes of your walk….during the cool-down.  This practice will allow you to reap the benefits of walking during the majority of your walk time but you will also have a few minutes to make a call when you are already walking slowly. 

Daily walking can be one of the best things you do for yourself all day.  If you use your walking time to talk on a cell phone you are missing out on many of the benefits that can keep us motivated to walk every day, no matter what.  Don’t short change yourself or your daily walking routine.  Embrace all of the benefits that daily walking can bring to your life…kick the phone habit and give your mind a break. 

Have you walked today?  Do you frequently talk on the phone while you walk?  Keep in touch by clicking the comments link below.

(1)  Relyea, Kie.  “Clown Passes Unnoticed by Cell Phone Users.”  The Tennessean 26, November 2009:  22A.

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Have you ever thought that walking is too easy to be considered a ‘real’ exercise?  That walking is what you do when you want an easy fitness routine?  Something you do when you are recovering from an injury?  Something you do when you can’t run or bicycle?  Do you ever wonder if walking is really a workout?  Is walking enough?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that adults need 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week for the greatest health benefits.  That’s less than 22 minutes each day.  You don’t even have to complete the 22 minutes all at once.  Exercising at a moderate intensity for at least 10 minutes leads to the same health benefits as longer sessions. And, yes, walking is considered a moderate intensity activity but to reach ‘moderate intensity’ the CDC states you need to walk at least as fast as a 15 minute mile. 

I thought a 15 minutes mile sounded easy enough.  I was sure that I was walking at least that fast when I walk during my lunch break.  So I timed myself using my cell phone clock – not exactly precise timing but close enough.  During the cold of winter I walk on a small track.  I warm up with a .5 lap of slow walking and I end my walk with a .5 lap of slow walking.  I walk a mile or 10.47 laps at my ‘thinking’ pace.  This is the pace that lets my mind wander, brain storm, ponder and contemplate.  Any faster and my mind can’t wander as I seem to concentrate more on breathing and moving faster.  After walking for 1 mile I checked the phone and I was a little surprised to see that I do not walk a 15 minute mile…I walk a 17 minute mile.  So I tried again the next day and I walked a 16 minute mile.  Either way I am not meeting the CDC recommendation of walking a 15 minute mile.

Another way to measure your walking intensity is to count the number of steps you take per minute.  According to this study you need to take at least 100 steps per minute to reach a level of moderate intensity.  I enlisted the help of my son and his IPod Nano stop watch feature to time my steps per minute.  I tried to walk the same pace I do during lunch but the conditions were different from the track:  we were outside, it was windy and I had on a winter coat.  Nevertheless, the first test result was 120 steps per minute.  Second test, 118 steps per minute. 

If you aren’t walking a 15 minute mile or walking 100 steps per minute, realize that you are still doing something great for your health.  A study by Tim Church of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center concluded that walking at the pace of a 20 minute mile can improve your fitness.  This study tracked women who were 50 years old or older who walked 72 minutes per week at the pace of a 20 minute mile.  The study found a nearly 4% improvement in the cardiovascular fitness of the women tested despite the fact that they only walked 72 minutes per week and they walked at a 20-minute mile pace.  These results were not expected, in fact, Church stated he was really surprised at the increase in fitness of the test subjects.

Other studies have also been conducted to determine if people benefit from an exercise routine based on walking.  These studies examine how much walking is required to achieve health benefits and how walking slower or faster or for different lengths impact the health benefits. 

One study published in the January 2010 Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who walked at a moderate intensity level during their middle age years had “fewer chronic diseases and had greater mental acuity” at age 70.  The study also found that those women who walked even faster than a moderate pace “increased their odds of successful aging by 3-fold.”

Another study separated 128 sedentary men and women into two groups – one group walked at their own pace and the other group walked at a moderate intensity level.  Both groups participated in their assigned exercise routine for six months.  At the end of six months, both groups showed improvement in increased aerobic fitness and both groups showed a decrease in systolic blood pressure.  The group that walked at a moderate intensity was shown to exhibit more than double the health benefits of the group that self-paced their walks. 

What all these studies confirm is that walking is enough.  Walking at almost any pace will lead to some health benefits.  Walking at a moderate intensity level will lead to significant health benefits and walking even faster will lead to more substantial health benefits. 

Moving your body is always healthier than sitting or lounging.  Moving faster will provide you with even more health benefits than moving slower.

If you are just starting a walking routine finding a comfortable pace will keep you coming back for more.  Trying to do too much – too soon can result in injury or giving up if the effort required is too hard. 

For those of us who are already walking regularly, we should break free of our exercise comfort zone and challenge our bodies to walk at a faster pace.  Through this increased effort we can maximize the health benefits we receive from daily walking. 

For me, I may have become too accustomed to my ‘thinking pace.’  I am going to focus on increasing my pace during part of my daily walk – I think I will speed up during at least 3 or 4 laps so I will still have some walking time to brainstorm and ponder. 

Have you ever felt like exercise isn’t a real workout?  Do these studies make you want to walk longer or walk faster than you usually do?  Let me know in the comments.

One of my favorite blogs, Fit and Forty Something, recently asked ‘Does Walking Count.’ Read this post.

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