The days are finally longer, trees and flowers are starting to bud, and frosty weather is on its way out. If you’ve been thinking about starting a walking routine, now is the perfect time. Walking is one of the simplest and most effective forms of exercise. No special equipment or training is necessary, and people of all ages and fitness levels can benefit.

Research shows that walking at least 150 minutes at a brisk pace per week can help reduce your risk of serious illnesses like diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. It can also have a positive effect on bone health as well as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.

In addition to the physical benefits, walking has been linked to a reduction in the risk for dementia and can improve your stress level, memory, sleep, and emotional well-being. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that walking for just 30 minutes a day can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression.

There’s no need to start out at 150 minutes a week to reap the benefits. Any walking is better than no walking, and you can slowly increase your minutes over time. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Set realistic goals – Start by setting achievable goals for yourself. If you are new to walking, aim for five to ten minutes of brisk walking a day and gradually increase the duration as you build stamina.
  2. Walk with a buddy – Walking with a friend or family member is a nice opportunity to spend quality time together while getting fit and keeping each other motivated.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes – Make sure you have a good pair of walking shoes with plenty of support and cushioning.
  4. Choose your route – Look for walking paths or neighborhoods in your area where you feel safe and comfortable. Of course, walking in nature can be especially enjoyable. When walking in the evenings, make sure the path is safe and well-lit.
  5. Make it a habit – Incorporate walking into your daily routine by scheduling it at a specific time that fits easily into your schedule.
  6. Track your progress – Using a pedometer or a fitness app can help you track the number of steps you take each day and will allow you to see your progress over time.

Keep in mind that even shorter periods of walking throughout the day, such as taking the stairs, parking farther away from your destination, or taking a stroll during your lunch break can be added to your goal and will offer significant health benefits.

Finally, it’s important to listen to your body. Start at a pace that feels comfortable for you. Remember to consult with your health care provider before starting a new exercise routine, especially If you have any health concerns or medical conditions.

So, lace up your shoes, step outside, and start reaping the rewards of walking this spring. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

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Submitted by Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center.