If you read the post, One Simple Habit to Kickstart a Healthy Lifestyle, you know that walking is one of the most underrated, yet beneficial, forms of exercise, and comes with a long list of health benefits.
If regular exercise is not part of your life, getting started and staying consistent can be a hurdle. Walking is by far the easiest way to get into exercising and make physical activity a regular part of your life. Something holding you back? Let's address those excuses!
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1. Lower back pain
Many people believe that rest is the best treatment for lower back pain. I get it. You have pain, you don't want to move. However, walking is actually one of the best things you can do to help with lower back pain. Walking helps to strengthen the muscles in the trunk and abdomen and also improves circulation, which is essential in healing. Lying down and doing nothing causes the opposite to happen, which will prolong recovery. Unless it is a very acute injury or you have been given strict doctor's orders, bed rest beyond 24 hours is not recommended. Get moving!
2. Too overweight or obese
Walking is without a doubt more challenging if you are overweight or obese, however, it is not impossible. If you have two functioning legs (and medical clearance from you doctor if you are transitioning from a sedentary lifestyle), you can walk. Focusing on weight-loss through diet prior to starting an exercise program is common, but not necessary and often just a cop-out. We all know how often diets fail, leaving exercise off the table indefinitely. There is no reason not to do both. Walking burns calories, which will help you lose weight, in addition to all the other health benefits. Start slow. Make sure you have appropriate footwear. Go with a friend. Unless your doctor has told you specifically not to walk (which is rare), there is no excuse. It will only get harder the longer you wait.
3. No time to exercise
Most of us are busy. The difference between people who exercise regularly and those who don't is not time! Rather, is the value they place on exercise and their motivation to keep it up. There are 24 hours in a day. Reserving 30 minutes per day for a walk should not be hard. Go during your lunch break, after work, once your kids are in bed, with your kids, or first thing in the morning while you drink your coffee. Find the motivation to start walking and make it habit/routine.
4. Walking is boring
Have you tried walking? Walking to the bus stop or from your car to the grocery store does not count! Have you gone for a walk for the sole purpose of walking? Try walking with a friend or walking group, while listening to music or somewhere scenic, peaceful or new. Borrow your neighbours dog! If you still find walking boring, try a different activity. If you don't enjoy something you are unlikely to keep it up. Don't throw in the exercise towel, find a form of exercise you enjoy. Here are 21 Simple Ideas to Get Moving!
5. Walking isn't enough exercise
Go big or go home is the mindset that keeps many at home munching potato chips on the couch. The belief that you need to do intense vigorous gym workouts to lose weight and be healthy is common, but inaccurate.
Walking is great exercise, and for many, it is enough. Research shows that 150 minutes per week (20-30 minutes per day) of moderate intensity exercise (which includes brisk walking) yields health benefits (measured by longevity) as compared to less, or no exercise. However, the more you exercise (and greater intensity), the more beneficial it is. So, if it is a matter of exercising or not, walking 150 minutes per week is enough and will benefit your overall health and longevity. Start here. Gradually increase your speed and duration. Make it routine. You might just catch the exercise bug!
6. Walking causes sore muscles
Sore muscles are not injured muscles. Sore muscles mean that you worked them. Sore muscles are a reminder that you have muscles and you did something to strengthen them. Sore muscles are a good thing! The more you walk or do a particular exercise, the less you will experience muscle soreness afterwards, which is a sign you are improving and are likely ready to do more.
7. Too old
Exercising as a senior is one of the best things you can do to preserve your independence and stay healthy. You might not be sprinting around a soccer field in your 70s or 80s (although seniors walking soccer is now a thing!), but seniors can most definitely exercise, and walking is the perfect means to do so. Regular walking for seniors can be the difference between staying in their home and moving into a care facility. Sedentary adults over the age of 50 lose approximately 3% of their muscle mass per year. Even younger adults who don't use their muscles for a couple of weeks (such as when injured) experience muscle wasting. Fortunately, regular exercise (including walking) can significantly slow this process.
Walking is such a great form of exercise that nearly everyone can benefit from. There is no better time than now to get started. The only thing you will regret is that you didn't start sooner! If you need help making a commitment and sticking to it, check out my free goal setting guide.
"Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far." - Thomas Jefferson
*Warning: Please consult with your doctor prior to making any significant changes to your level of physical activity and if you answered yes to any questions in the PAR-Q.