Do you think of walking as simply a way of getting from A to B? Or are you a self-declared walk-aholic that loves nothing more than to lose yourself in your walks? It doesn’t matter whether you walk the dog, are a race walker or an avid tramper, when people ask if you exercise, you should no longer feel embarrassed to say you’re “just walking”.
Regular walking can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, asthma, some cancers and help control type 2 diabetes. And you don’t need to pound the pavement for long to get results: a study at Arizona State University suggests that three 10-minute walks a day can be more effective at keeping blood pressure in a healthy range than a single 30-minute workout! With around 3.5 million Australians living with high blood pressure – a major risk factor for heart disease – it’s time to get walking.
Walk it off
It’s a sad fact: Australia is ranked as one of the fattest nations in the world. More than 17 million of us are overweight or obese, including one in four children. Do you battle with the balance of how much you eat and how much you burn off? Make walking your daily ally and see what a difference 30 minutes of brisk walking every day can make.
Boost your brain
Have you noticed how much better you feel after a walk? Like any form of exercise, walking releases happy endorphins that lift your spirit and help to relieve depression. What’s more, an Australian study has found that after six months of moderate exercise, participants had improved memory and thinking functions. Now that’s a great reason to put on those walking shoes!
Getting started – you can do it!
It’s too hot. It’s too cold. I’m too tired. Long-time walker and author
Helen Vause has heard (or thought) it all. With 21 days being quoted
as the magic number to learn a new habit – like a daily walk – it’s often surprisingly difficult to make a new habit part of your life. Here are five common excuses to not put on those walking shoes – and five ways to beat them and help you get out the door.
Challenge: I’m overweight and look awful
Try: Buy some nice gear to make you feel better about how you look when walking. Find someone to walk with you – and choose routes where you can take in the surroundings without too many people around. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself to others.
Challenge: It’s boring
Try: Mix it up – walk with friends or an iPod, change your route or explore places you haven’t been to before. You could even spend the time catching up with friends on the phone. Just remember to keep the pace up to make sure you get your money’s worth from the walk.
Challenge: I’m too tired
Try: If you’re too tired in the morning, try walking in the evening instead. Or simply see what happens when you get out there – take a brief walk and see if it invigorates you.
Challenge: The weather is too hot
Try: Beat the summer heat by getting out the door first thing in the morning. Choose walking paths in the shade, or why not go for a walk along the beach with your feet in the water?
Challenge: I don’t have anyone to walk with
Try: Find someone! If your friends aren’t interested, look up a walking group in your area. Love animals? Get a dog or offer to walk the neighbour’s dog.
Naturally’s pick: The Great Ocean Walk
Have you always wanted to do the Great Ocean Road? Try the Great Ocean Walk instead! Starting in Apollo Bay, the 104km-long route runs west, finishing in the vicinity of the spectacular 12 Apostles. Depending on the weather and your level of fitness, the walk takes between five and 10 days. The route is designed for all levels of walkers – you can spend your nights in anything from basic campsites to luxurious lodges or cabins. If the entire route seems too long, you can choose to step on and off sections of the trail. Plan your next big walk at www.visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Great-Ocean-Road
Want more walking tips?
In her book Walking for Fitness, Pleasure and Health ($24.99, Exisle Publishing), Helen Vause offers insights into how to start walking, motivation, weight loss and nutrition, training for events and more. The ultimate guide for walkers, this book will educate, motivate and inspire you whether you’re pushing a pram, looking to combat work stress, lose weight, walk a marathon or explore one of the world’s most famous hiking treks.