When caring for children, it may seem like you are running versus walking everyday. Whether you’re gathering the crew to leave for a jaunt to the park or chasing toddlers from one room to the next, you definitely get a workout in as a nanny or parent.
However, there are many sedentary moments while caring for children, and it can be tempting to sit back and watch a TV show on the couch when you have a rare moment to yourself. Instead of wasting time in front of the TV, though, consider going for a walk.
Exercise is the key to a healthy lifestyle, but you don’t have to break the bank with an expensive gym membership or even run a marathon to improve your health. Walking is enough and here’s why.
Start Small: One Step at a Time
According to Carolyn Phillips, certified personal trainer and owner of Fit Behavior, a wellness facility in Connecticut, walking and running burn about the same amount of calories per mile. Walking also helps you transition slowly into an exercise routine.
“A big mistake most people make is to do too much too soon when it comes to exercise,” says Phillips. “Starting slowly will condition the joints and systems of the body to acclimate to future, more aggressive workouts and avoid common injuries.”
Although walking is a normal part of your daily routine while caring for children, incorporating longer walks into your day can also prepare your body for an exercise routine.
“Your body needs about three weeks to acclimate to new exercise and the loading that walking puts on your tissues and joints,” says Phillips. “It takes another three weeks to develop the tolerance for longer walking periods.”
Taking the First Step
To get started, Phillips recommends you begin your walking program with 15 to 20 minute walks three times for the first week. Increase your walking volume by 20% per week up to six weeks and try to work up to five sessions a week for 30 to 45 minutes each time, especially if you’re trying to drop some pounds, says Phillips.
Embarking on a walking routine also begs the need for quality shoes. Typically, walking shoes will last about three to six months, or about 300 to 400 miles. “Just because the treads on the bottom of your shoes don’t look worn down, it doesn’t mean they are still in good condition,” says Phillips. “It’s a good idea to go to a store that properly fits you for walking or running shoes. The right shoe for your foot and fitness goals will be an asset to your overall health and the wrong shoe can derail them.”
To track your progress and motivate you to keep walking, purchase a pedometer to help determine the miles you have accomplished as well as the miles you have put on your trusty pair of shoes.
If you experience pain, Phillips warns that you should not “work through it.”
“Do not exercise day after day with a pain that won’t go away,” she says. “Stop walking for two or three days and then you can start up at half the distance.” Seek diagnosis from a physician if the pain continues to persist.
The Benefits: Keep on Trekking
The benefits of walking enhance our physical condition and combat disease, says Phillips. “Walking also benefits mental fitness by increasing circulation to the brain, bringing needed oxygen to brain cells,” she says.
Phillips also cites the additional benefits of walking that include:
- Lowered low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, otherwise known as the “bad cholesterol”
- Raised high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, otherwise known as the “good cholesterol”
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
- Increased opportunity to manage your weight
- Enhanced motivation to embark on additional fitness activities
- Improved circulation
- Improved breathing and cardiovascular endurance
- Decreased risk of osteoporosis
Walking is also good for your heart, says Phillips. “A recent Harvard study shows that walking at a moderate pace (3 mph) for up to three hours a week or 30 minutes a day can cut the risk of heart disease in women by as much as 40%,” she says. “This is the same benefit you would get from aerobics, jogging or other vigorous exercise.”
Walking can also help reduce anxiety. “Studies have come to the conclusion that people who exercise report feeling less stressed or nervous,” says Phillips. “Even five minutes of aerobic exercise or walking that increases oxygen can reduce anxiety effects.”
Your stress level after a long day of caring for those precious little ones can also be reduced with a nightly walk. “Walking stimulates the release of endorphins,” says Phillips. “Endorphins are believed to relieve pain, enhance the immune system, reduce stress and delay the aging process.”