April is Move More month and April 1st is National Walking Day – No foolin’! Being active and having positive social support are keys to lifelong health and especially important during these times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Walking is a great way to be physically active and can be done while “social distancing” as recommended by health experts. If you are working from home, set a time each day for a short walk. Consider how you can spend some quality family time being active outdoors.
Keep these tips in mind when walking during the COVID-19 pandemic:
• Maintain social distancing (6 feet between individuals) until there is a change in safety guidelines
• Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds
• Cough or sneeze into your elbow/shoulder
Walking is safer and puts less stress on the body than most other forms of aerobic exercise. Walking is an especially good choice for people who are older or less active (Altpeter, et al, 2009). Walking offers many benefits for your body and spirit. Besides being inexpensive, convenient and fun, walking can help to:
• Strengthen heart, lungs, joints & bones
• Fight osteoporosis
• Burn calories & control weight
• Reduce stress, improve mood & boost energy
Current guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular or aerobic exercise five times a week – that’s only 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity physical activity during an entire week. The good news is the 2018 physical activity guidelines recommend no minimum effective bout duration – so even a few minutes at a time are beneficial and add up to reach your 2½ hours of weekly moderate physical activity (Gunter, K., 2018). So, if walking 30 minutes at a time is too much or you can’t find the time you could walk 15 minutes twice a day, 10 minutes three times a day or even 5 minutes or less several times over the course of the day. Just remember the total should add up to at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity over the course of a week.
Research shows that setting goals and writing them down (making a contract) is helpful (Altpeter, et al, 2009). When setting goals be specific:
• State when you will walk. For example, will you walk before breakfast, during your lunch break or immediately after work?
• State how often you will walk. At first aim for three times a week, if you do more that’s a bonus.
• Refer to the contract daily. Post it where you’ll see it, such as on the fridge or your bathroom mirror. Your contract will help you stay focused and on track with your walking program. Keeping records of your daily activity will help you make and maintain changes in your overall physical activity.
Here are some resources to get you started or keep you walking:
• Join a walking group to provide support and encouragement (Kouvenen, A., et al, 2012). Social support helps us make lasting increases in being physically active. Watch for information about Walk Well Tillamook County walking groups that will be relaunched later this spring/summer.
• Check out the “Walk with Ease Self-Directed Program” at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/walk-ease. All participants receive a free book in the mail and weekly coaching emails to guide them through the program.
• For those who choose to avoid groups completely and stay at home, check out Leslie Sansone’s Walk At Home Youtube channel. Her videos are great for exercising indoors, with limited space and equipment.