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Life has really changed at my house.  It seems like yesterday I was bundling up to walk Bandy in the frigid darkness and writing about winter walking.  Instead, summer came early at my house.  We’ve had temperatures in the 80’s for the past couple of weeks.  I’m looking forward to the return of normal temperatures in the 70’s for the next few days.  And, unlike last year, it has been sunny and dry. 

We’ve had the perfect weather to tackle outside projects around the house and yard and I’ve been working like crazy.  So far this year I have weeded all the flower beds and painted 2 sides of my foundation.  (I’m on the 20 year plan with this foundation painting.  I figure if my house could go the first 50 years with a bare foundation then I didn’t have to be in too much of a hurry.  I did the first side about 11 years ago.  Now, I only have the back side of the house to go.  Maybe if this weather holds out I can get that done before the mosquitoes invade my yard.  If not, I have about 8 years to meet my personal deadline J). 

I would guess in the last 3 weeks I have spent about 20 hours bending over, bending down, pulling, twisting, bending up, bending down, and pushing.  It was tricky trying to paint from the ground up while standing in a bed of irises about to bloom.  I felt like I was playing twister!

And you know what?  I’ve not had one sore muscle…not in my legs or arms or back or neck.  I found this a little curious because I remember last year once the rain stopped and I could get out in the garden, I was uncomfortable pulling weeds and digging and planting.  I remember my knees hurting and my back aching.  I had to lean my knees on a padded pillowy thing for goodness sake.  I remember thinking if this is how I feel at 42 how will I ever garden when I’m 50 or 60.  

I’ve spent some time thinking these past few weeks as to why I haven’t had any discomfort or pain this year.  There has to be a reason, right? 

I’ve come up with two possibilities…qigong and walking.  

Qigong is “a form of traditional Chinese mind/body exercise and meditation that uses slow and precise body movements with controlled breathing and mental focusing to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength and overall health.”  

As you may know from reading Is Walking Enough (Part 2), I’ve been doing a short qigong routine for about 9 months now.  It took me a few weeks to get the hang of it and remember the sequence without referring to the pictures.  This qigong sequence of 6 movements seems to stretch most, if not all, of the major muscle groups.  I do these stretches every morning.  It feels great and it doesn’t take a lot of time to complete – about 12 minutes.  Doing these stretches every day has increased my normal range of motion and has increased my overall flexibility.  It is nothing now to bend down and reach and stretch because my body has been training to do this daily through qigong!  

I also think that walking soon after finishing these tasks helped my body recover quickly.  Like taking a hot shower after exerting yourself, I think that walking soon after my tasks gave my allowed my body to move and stretch and stop the soreness or stiffness that might have occurred had I just sat down and watched TV after I finished working.

Have you been working hard in the yard or house, playing tennis, running or riding your bike after a winter of little activity?  Are you calling on your body to move more than normal now that the weather begs for outdoor activities?  Have you noticed stiffness or soreness and wish you had a way to minimize these side effects of the weekend warrior?  If you want to prevent post-warrior pain and soreness, give qigong and walking a chance…a hot shower won’t hurt either.

What home projects or fitness activities have you been working on or have planned for the Spring?  Do you ever feel sore or pain from your work or fun?  Let us read all about it in the comments.

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We’ve heard it all before…we should exercise every day.  We’ve heard the studies that say regular exercise will reduce our risk for cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression, osteoporosis, etc.  No matter how much we want to exercise, we never follow through with the promises we make to ourselves to hit the gym or to make it to a yoga class.  Or maybe we do make it to a class or go for a jog but then we just can’t seem to stick with it – we can’t get into an exercise groove.  Our job, children, family and friends all need our attention, our money and/or our time.  We still think about exercise…mainly that we are not exercising…and this makes us feel guilty and stressed.  Our thoughts of all the exercise we should be doing, but aren’t, become overwhelming and we give up – sometimes before we start.  Is the thought of getting fit stressing you out and pushing you to inaction? 

But hold on a minute.  Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day.  And you don’t have to overwhelm yourself with all that you think you should be doing.  Instead, plan out what you can do in 15 minutes a day.  You can gain important health benefits in just 15 minutes of exercise each day.  Each time you complete a 15 minute session it will add up until you have hours of fitness under your belt.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing.  Your 15 minutes of something will add up to 1 hour and 45 minutes of fitness each week or 4.5 hours of fitness each month.  That’s pretty impressive if you are doing less than that now.

So what could you do during your 15 minutes of fitness?  Consider alternating each day between an aerobic session and a strength training session. 

Week 1 walk for 15 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  

Week 2 complete a strength training session on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. 

Don’t think for a second that you need to have a gym membership or own an expensive piece of equipment for this 15 minute fitness program.  One of the best aerobic activities you can do for your self is to walk.  Walking 15 minutes 3-4 times each week will provide you with a number of health benefits.  Check out One Activity that Can Change Your Life for more information about the vast health benefits of walking. 

It is possible to create a strength training program at home with no equipment.  Using your own body weight as resistance you can do push-ups, sit-ups, squats, core exercises, dips, etc.  Use your 15 minutes of strength training to complete some light stretches, 10 push-ups, 25 sit-ups, 20 squats and 6 dips.  In one month, this will add up to 150 push-ups, 375 sit-ups, 300 squats and 90 dips each month.  See how these small incremental efforts add up to big time numbers?  Check out this previous post on weight training if you want to incorporate free-weights or you are looking for some other strength training exercises.

No matter what your situation, a fitness program is within your reach.  Don’t become paralyzed by unrealistic expectations.  Just commit to 15 minutes a day and alternate between an aerobic program and a strength training program to start your fitness program.  The most important thing you can do for your health today is to commit to a daily routine that you complete everyday no matter what.  A 15 minute commitment is do-able for everyone.  No excuses.  Make your 15 minute fitness program a habit and you will reap the health benefits guaranteed.

Do you ever become overwhelmed with your fitness goals?  Have you ever stopped exercising because you felt like what you were doing didn’t make a difference?  Let me know in the comments.  Thanks.

 Next Post:  Do You Have Lazy Habits?

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Winter is finally loosening its noose on the weather at my house.  I’ve actually gotten to walk twice in shorts during the last 10 days.  Nothing feels better than bare legs after a long winter.  It’s so exciting to think of all the walks ahead of me that I won’t need a coat, gloves, scarf and a hat.  I love spring and I love walking in spring.  Here’s why:

  • I know that even if the weather isn’t perfect today, a sunny and warm day is never far away like it was in January
  • I love to look at the wild flowers and flowering trees
  • I love to hear the birds sing their hearts out
  • I love to watch the new tree buds slowly unfurl into bright green leaves
  • I love to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin
  • I love the minimalist walking wardrobe of warmer weather
  • I love to people and dog watch while I am walking at the park
  • I love to feel the warm breeze on my skin
  • I love to walk the dog in the light of day after work instead of in the cold and dark of winter
  • I love that I am always motivated to walk outside on a beautiful Spring day

If the spring weather is motivating you to take a walk don’t forget to put on sunscreen and bring extra water for you and any children or dogs that are walking with you.  It’s also a good idea to keep an umbrella handy in case of unexpected spring showers.  Also, don’t put the gloves and hat away just yet.  Keep some cold weather wear in the car or work so you won’t skip a walk if the weather turns blustery.  Last, check out your local and state park spring activities calendars which will be filling up with nature hikes, wildflower hikes and educational activities for you and your children.

What do you love about spring walking? Will you be walking more frequently or taking longer walks now that we have longer daylight hours?  Has spring come to your house yet? 

Next Post:  Is Trying to Get Fit Stressing You Out?

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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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“It’s not the work that’s hard – it’s the discipline.”

                                    -Anonymous

There are times when I don’t want to walk.  

Sometimes when it is really hot or cold or raining or my backpack is really heavy with work stuff, I resent having to walk up the long hill to work.  I dream of a parking space right next to the door of my office building. 

Sometimes I don’t want to walk during lunch – I’d rather read a magazine or talk with my co-workers while enjoying a leisurely lunch. 

Sometimes on the drive home from work I dread the thought of changing clothes and going right back out the door to walk my dog. 

We all have those days. 

The question is how do we motivate ourselves to get up, skip the work shuttle, spend part of our lunch hour walking and walk the dog when it’s really the last thing we want to do?  

I always have a list of reasons that I want to walk in the back of my mind that I think about whenever I’m tempted to skip a walk.  Something on this motivational list almost always gets me out the door to walk even when I rather do something else or nothing at all.  Here is my list:

  1. I know I’ll feel guilty if I skip my walk. 
  2. I know I will have more energy after I walk then before I walked.
  3. My walk during lunch will be my only ‘me time’ I have.  Why skip that?
  4. I can’t disappoint my dog.  She has waited all day for this walk.
  5. I know I will be in a better mood after I walk than I was before I walked.
  6. If I skip my walk eventually my jeans won’t fit – I hate trying on jeans.
  7. I love to walk on a sunny day in winter and a cloudy day in summer.
  8. I know if I don’t feel like walking then that means I need a walk.
  9. I’ve never finished walking and thought “I wish I hadn’t done that.”
  10. If I walk then I can eat chocolate guilt free. 

My list gets me walking about 99% of the time even on the days when I have no motivation to walk.  Are there days that you don’t want to walk?  How do you motivate yourself when you get the urge to skip a walk?  What’s on your list?

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Do you get 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week?  No.  Why not?  Study after study suggests that as little as 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week can give you a healthier, happier and longer life. 

If there is a little voice inside of you saying it’s time to be more active then try walking.  Walking is an activity that almost everyone can do any place or time.  If you choose to walk you’ll find that the excuses you’ve used in the past to avoid exercise won’t be a barrier anymore.  

You might identify with some of the most common reasons below that people say they don’t exercise.  Scroll down to find the most common reasons that you don’t exercise.  Then learn how walking will be the excuse buster allowing you to focus on accomplishing fitness goals instead of avoiding exercise.  

No Confidence

  • I don’t know what to do – I feel stupid;
  • I don’t think I can do it – I am afraid;
  • I’m embarrassed;
  • I’m too big.

You already know how to walk.  You’ve had a lot of practice walking and you are well trained for this fitness activity.  You don’t have to learn how to work tricky equipment or remember the steps to a fitness routine.  All you have to do is walk.

If you are uncomfortable walking in your neighborhood, find a local park for walking. You will blend in with all of the other walkers – young and old and of all sizes. 

No Time

  • Exercise takes too long;
  • It gets in the way of other obligations;
  • It’s inconvenient;
  • I have to care for my children and/or other family members.

Walking is always available if you have appropriate shoes.  You can fit 10 minutes of walking into your day pretty effortlessly.  Be creative.  Walk around the block or parking lot before and after work, walk for the first 15 minutes of your lunch break, walk while your child is at baseball practice or dance class. 

Keep a comfy pair of shoes in the car or at work so you will always be prepared to squeeze in 10 minutes of walking.  To start, set a goal to walk at least 10 minutes every day.

Remember that your children will get older and your family obligations will change.  By developing a walking habit now you will have more energy today for your many obligations.  Take care of yourself now so that you can take care of others in your life. 

Health Concerns

  • I’m out of shape;
  • I’m too old to exercise;
  • I don’t want to get injured.

Almost everyone who doesn’t have a chronic or limiting health condition can walk safely at any age.  Start off slow aiming for a 5 to 10 minute walk each day and gradually build up to 30 minutes. 

No Motivation

  • Exercise is boring – no fun;
  • I can’t commit – I keep quitting;
  • I keep procrastinating.

What do you like to do?  Do you like talking with a friend, listening to music, feeling the sun on your face, having more ‘me time,’ spending more time with your family or spending time in natural settings?  You can do all of these things and more while walking.  Call a friend to walk or recruit some friends for a walking group, enjoy nature while walking at the park or greenway, get more ‘me time’ by walking solo or have more family time by planning family walks.  When you choose to walk, it is easy to include some of your favorite people, places and things with walking to keep it fun and to keep you motivated.  

No Results

  • Exercise isn’t changing my body;
  • Why should I bother to exercise;
  • Exercise is all for nothing.

A proud sense of accomplishment is one of the first results you will notice after walking.  You will start to feel stress melt away within minutes after you start walking.  You will notice increased energy and alertness.  You will almost always feel better after walking than you did before you walked.

No Money

  • I can’t afford a gym membership or exercise classes;
  • I don’t have the right exercise equipment;
  • I don’t have proper exercise apparel.

Walking is basically FREE.  All  you need are shoes.

If you walk, you don’t have to join a gym, pay for classes or buy special equipment. 

Look around and you will see that most walkers wear whatever is comfortable and weather appropriate…we walkers aren’t into flashy and we seldom worry about what to wear when we walk. 

No Effort

  • Exercise zaps my energy;
  • Exercise is too hard;
  • Exercise hurts;
  • I’m too tired to exercise.

Walking is one of the easiest fitness activities you can do.  Your body is made specifically to walk.  Your body should not hurt during or after walking if you start off slow and gradually increase your time and intensity.

If you feel tired, take a walk.  You will feel alert and energized after walking. 

External

  • It’s too nice to be inside exercising.
  • It’s too hot, cold, rainy or snowy to exercise outside.

When the weather is bad you can walk inside at the mall, community center, or indoor track.  If the weather is nice then take advantage of a beautiful day by walking outside at the park, in your neighborhood, on the greenway, or investigating your own town on foot.  No matter what the weather is outside, walking can work for you.

Have You Walked Today?

Have you ever let any of these excuses stop you from being more active despite your best intentions?  Are you convinced yet that walking can be your excuse buster and let you achieve your fitness goals instead of avoiding exercise? 

Don’t let one more day pass without walking.  Start today, no excuses.

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