Here at 8fit, we believe that when in doubt keep things simple. This especially applies to fitness and incorporating more movement into your day-to-day life. So what could be more simple than going for a good old-fashioned stroll? Walking, an often underestimated form of exercise is a fantastically simple and an exceptionally effective way to get fit, boasting a wide range of health benefits that’ll serve both your body and mind well.
In the last few years, we’ve seen a significant rise in the popularity of fitness wearables and wellness apps, with step tracker apps at the helm of this new fitness wave. Why use an app for tracking steps? If you’ve started getting back into fitness or want to increase your daily activity, then step tracker apps can be very useful in helping you set goals, measure your success and stay motivated. But let’s take things one step at a time, and before we launch into how you can track your steps, let’s first look into the importance of walking.
What’s so great about walking anyway?
Sure, at first glance there doesn’t seem much to walking, you’ve been doing it ever since you were a toddler teetering around and taking your first steps. However, whether you’re taking a casual stroll around the block or Nordic walking through the woods with your poles in tow, this low-impact activity is more beneficial than you think.
There’s been a steady shift of recent towards more measured forms of fitness, with the use of step tracker apps on the rise and low-intensity activities such as walking becoming, dare we say, fashionable. The philosophy surrounding this is rooted in moving your body mindfully, so you can both exercise and develop a sense of bodily awareness. This safe, slow and steady approach, in contrast to more high-intensity workouts, allows you to check in with your body and understand what it needs, e.g. more rest or more activity.
Walking is also the most accessible and versatile type of exercise for the following reasons:
- Low impact: Unlike running or jogging, walking won’t adversely impact your joints, especially your knees. Plus, if you suffer from arthritis, walking can help increase circulation to stiff joints and alleviate pain.
- Perfect at any age: Regular low to moderate-intensity movement is suitable at any age, whether you’re a young whippersnapper or seasoned senior. Nothing beats getting some fresh air and getting in your recommended daily steps.
- No equipment needed: Save on expensive gym memberships and equipment, and just pop outside for a free workout. If you feel like stepping it up, you can always add some ankle weights to make it more challenging or walking poles for increased range of motion and better posture.
- Social or solitary: Whether you’re a lone wolf or a social butterfly, enjoy walking alone listening to your favorite tunes or make it a motivational group activity with friends, colleagues or family.
Walk and talk:If you don’t need a computer, take your work meetings outside. The movement combined fresh air will give your energy and brain a boost.
- Adaptable: You can always modify the intensity, pace, and length of your walk to meet you at your current fitness level — this is when it really helps to track your steps. Starting out? Then even 10 minutes a day will make the world of difference. Fitness fanatic? Up your cardio level with challenging routes that include inclines and flight of steps.
The amazing health benefits of walking
There are an array of health benefits you’re bound to reap once you start walking and especially when you track your steps. Here are some the most important ones:
Walk your way to weight loss
It’s a simple principle: more movement = more energy expended. With that logic the more you walk, the more calories you burn, and as long as you’re eating a well-rounded diet made up of whole foods and healthy portions, the more fat you are set to lose.
Though calorie expenditure varies depending on age, sex, body composition, and activity level, on average a healthy person can burn up to 100 calories walking a mile (1.6km). Want to burn more? Then up the pace, add inclines or increase the length of time you walk.
Control your cortisol
A brisk walk can help calm the mind and body, with the positive knock-on effect of lowering cortisol levels. Chronically high cortisol levels can compromise the way you metabolize food and store energy, so the lower your levels are, the easier it will be for you to lose weight.
Regulate your blood pressure
Funny enough, if you struggle with high blood pressure, then actually getting the ole ticker pumping with a low to moderately intense walk will aid in lowering your levels. Some studies have even shown walking to be just as effective as jogging or running.
A study by the Korea Institute of Sports Science in Seoul showed that a daily 40-minute vigorous walk (3-4 miles per hour) helped men with hypertension drop five points off their blood pressure measurements. The study also found that four 10-minute sessions every day were almost as effective, dropping four points off blood pressure measurements.
Prevent or manage osteoarthritis
If you struggle with degenerative arthritic conditions, such as osteoarthritis, then moderate aerobic activity will help alleviate pain, swelling, and stiffness by maintaining healthy cartilage in the joints. Also, any excess weight loss through walking will mean less pressure on your joints, while the light impact will increase bone density and strength in those with osteoporosis.
Stabilize your blood sugar levels
Looking to prevent or manage diabetes? Then how about taking a 20-30 minute walk, the risk of diabetes is lowered with the loss of deep-seated unhealthy fat around the belly and midsection. Studies have shown that even a small amount of weight loss, can delay or even prevent the development of diabetes. Also, performing light to moderate level exercise can curb cravings as it reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin.
Move to improve your mood
When you’re feeling low or fatigued, sometimes the last thing you want to do is get out and move. However, going for a brisk walk can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Low to moderate-intensity exercise sustained over a more extended period of time can boost serotonin, dopamine and endorphin production, spur nerve cell growth and neurotransmitter connections, as well as improve sleep and lower perceived stress. All in all, a walk will help you regulate mood and well-being.
Why track your steps?
Now that you know the benefits of walking, you may be asking yourself, Why should I track my steps? Well, what you do between workouts is just as important to the health equation as is nutrition and fitness. Knowing this, we at 8fit have integrated a step tracker feature into our app so you can take a holistic approach to your well-being, where everything you need to stay healthy (exercise routines, recipes, meal plans, and now step tracking) is in one handy app.
In general, step tracker apps are nifty tools that help you get smarter about your fitness, making you aware of how many steps you should take daily, so you can meet or even surpass your daily target. Using an app for tracking steps will also enable you to:
- Set daily and weekly goals
- Stay accountable
- Solidify new healthy habits
- Track your progress
- Motivate and inspire you
Step it up: Setting realistic goals
As a rule of thumb, the average recommended daily steps for a moderately active, healthy person is 10,000 steps per day. If you lead an active lifestyle and regularly bike, do yoga, swim, play sports you should aim for about 7,000 non-workout steps and 10,000 on rest days. The important thing is to set realistic goals that are both attainable but still challenge you to push beyond your comfort zone.
If you’ve led a sedentary lifestyle up until now or are managing any health issues, then set yourself up for success and track your steps for as little as 10 minutes per day. This short amount of time can be easily integrated into your day with strolls on your lunch break, parking your car a few blocks away from work or home, hopping off the bus one stop earlier, or walking the dog after work. When you feel more comfortable, steadily increase the time or distance of your walks.
Motivation can often be the biggest hindrance to getting up and going, so ask a good friend, family member, colleague or neighbor to join you on regular walks. Want to step it up even more? Why not join a walking group or set one up yourself! You’ll be walking your way to a healthier, happier version of you in no time.