LiveSmart: Family Walks – Reap the Health Benefits!

[This piece was written by Nancy J. Sterantino, PT, MHA, supervisor of St. Peter’s Physical Therapy & Fitness.]

Forget the infomercials for all those exercise gimmicks. You and your family already have a free, energy-efficient, highly effective means to help you to stay healthy: Discover the power of walking!

The gentle, low-impact practice of walking is one of your body’s most natural forms of exercise. It’s low cost and does not require any special training or equipment. Plus, it is an activity that the entire family can do together and reap its many benefits.

Walking can help you:

  • Stay strong and fit
  • Manage your weight
  • Improve your cholesterol levels
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of or manage type 2 diabetes
  • Protect against various cancers
  • Improve your mood

It’s been about a decade since the various step tracking devices hit the market and their popularity shows no sign of waning. How many people do you know that will tell you that they either have or need to hit their 10,000 steps for the day? And while a step goal is a good motivator to get off the couch, you should also be mindful of the quality of those steps.

How long and how fast to walk? About 100 paces per minute. Several studies over the past decade found that a pace of 100 steps per minute achieves the moderate intensity needed for health benefits.

Ultimately, the recommended daily routine is to walk at a moderate pace for 30 minutes, or 3,000 steps. Repeat five days per week. If that’s too much at the start, begin with 1,000 steps in 10 minutes.

A moderate pace is one that noticeably increases heart and breathing rates while still letting you speak in full sentences. It’s a bit like a brisk walk; imagine how you’d feel if you were hurrying through an airport. Judging pace comes from experience and practice.

The good news is this pace will probably not feel strenuous to most healthy people. But, it is always important to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. Once you’ve gotten the all-clear, lace up those sneakers and head out for a walk.

St. Peter’s Physical Therapy & Fitness offers a full range of outpatient physical, occupational, and speech therapy services, as well as audiology services, at 1240 New Scotland Road in Slingerlands. St. Peter’s Health Partners Patient Therapies has a variety of outpatient physical and occupational therapists at locations throughout the Capital District, accepting all insurances and providing quality one-on-one treatment. For information, please call 518-475-1818.

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