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Back to Basics - Walking Through the Pandemic

Move More and Sit Less , says the CDC! Did they not get the memo about the pandemic? Although proper measures to social distance and quarantine assisted in reducing the spread of the coronavirus, it also boosted stress levels - causing mental and physical health to decline. While sheltered-in-place, a 2020 study showed daily sitting increased from 5 to 8 hours and food consumption became unhealthier, contributing to an average weight gain of 29 pounds in 2021. As some Covid-19 restrictions have lifted, many people are still not moving enough to combat controllable ailments such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Whether your workouts have been disrupted by gym closings or difficulty staying motivated during the pandemic, walking is a timeless exercise that aids in our mental and physical health.

Benefits of walking

Walking is one of the easiest and most cost-effective forms of exercise. All you need is comfortable shoes and clothes. Walking 150 minutes or 2.5 hours a week may lower risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. It has also been demonstrated to increase mood. In addition, taking brief walking breaks can offset the harm and decline to the body caused by sitting for long periods of time. Moving also assists with weight management and strengthens bones and muscles. Although walking is not difficult, it is important to be mindful of how you move as your body adjusts from being inactive. Here are seven tips on how to walk with proper form.

  1. Keep your head up. Focus on standing tall with your chin parallel to the ground and your ears aligned above your shoulders.

  2. Keep your eyes and gaze forward. Focus on an area about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you while you walk.

  3. Lengthen your spine. Try to avoid slouching or hunching your back

  4. Keep your shoulders down and back. Roll your shoulder back and down, slightly proud chest

  5. Engage your core. Your core muscles also play a significant role when you are walking, and help you move more easily. As you take each step, focus on tightening and engaging your core muscles by pulling your belly button in toward your spine. This can help you maintain balance and stability. It can also relieve stress and pressure on your back as you walk.

  6. Swing your arms. As you walk, gently swing your arms back and forth at your sides. Make sure you swing your arms from your shoulders, not from your elbows.

  7. Step from heel to toe -strike the ground with your heel first, then roll through your heel to your toes.

Move Outside or Inside

While there are several advantages to applying these tips as you walk outside such as: enhancing awareness as your body adjusts to uneven surfaces, improving overall strength, balance, and coordination, and breathing in nature, you can apply these steps to walking inside on a treadmill.

Walking on a treadmill for 30-60 minutes a day will provide the same benefits as walking outside such as cardiovascular health, improved balance, and weight loss! The same attention to form should be taken along with these six tips to properly walking on a treadmill:

  1. Hold on to the rails. Straddle the treadmill before starting, to make sure you have proper balance.

  2. Once the treadmill has started, keep holding on to the rails, if needed. Otherwise, let go, and get into a momentum of swinging opposite arm with opposite leg as they are going forward.

  3. Your arm swings will engage your core and hips more.

  4. To assist with posture, your head and neck should be aligned and facing forward, not looking down.

  5. Your body should also have a slight lean towards the front of the treadmill.

  6. Once your form is in check...add an extra challenge by hitting the incline button!! The added intensity will increase lung and heart endurance and burn more calories in a shorter amount of time!!

We are entering year three of the pandemic, getting back to your physical self will take time. Give yourself some grace as you develop a new norm to being active. Start small. Plan to walk for 10 minutes twice a day -either before work or during your break. Track your movement for accountability, once you have gained momentum, increase your walking time. Reward yourself milestones along the way, self-care is different for everyone. If you miss a day, no worries there is always tomorrow! Repeat this process until you have created a habit that makes you feel good mentally and physically!

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