Controlling Lifestyle Factors: How About Taking a Walk?

fullsizeoutput_152We may not always be able to control all the factors leading to breast cancer, however, when it comes to factors of lifestyle, which account for the largest percentage of occurrences, we actually have a lot of control. Lifestyle of course includes diet and exercise, choosing not to smoke, or not drinking too much. Lifestyle also includes how we manage stress by creating balance, having a supportive community and not least of all, having fun.

When it comes to diet and exercise, research also shows that it isn’t necessarily the drastic measures we take to change our lives that have the most lasting and meaningful results. It’s the small, incremental steps we take each day towards creating good habits that create real change.

Steps like walking for example (pun intended!-steps-walking?…oh never mind!). If someone takes up walking, it’s not terribly intimidating. They’re not training for a marathon. They’re not deciding to become a world-class triathlete. They’re simply putting on some sneakers and heading out for some fresh air. Yet, this small step, if you will, can provide a plethora of health benefits, from lowering blood pressure and staving off diabetes and obesity, to strengthening many of the muscles in your body, including your heart and lungs.

I’m always so excited when I see other people of color walking for exercise. It makes me feel more optimistic about our collective health. Walking is simple and walking is effective. Our bodies were made to walk! One of the great things about walking is that you can walk at your own pace and at your own level. One of the bad things about walking is that you can do it at your own pace and level as well.

The key is to keep challenging yourself. Start by strolling for about 15 minutes if you’ve been a sedentary person. But don’t stay at that level once you can do it comfortably. Challenge yourself to walk a mile in 15 minutes and then aim for more distance. Try to do two miles, then build to doing two miles in a shorter amount of time.

When I started walking regularly over 10 years ago, I used an MP3 walking program by Kathy Smith. What I love about her program is that she not only instructs you in correct walking form and technique (think arms bent at 90 degrees, squeeze your buns and tighten your core) she guides you along, telling you when to speed up and slow down. She also turns it into a challenging interval training workout by incrementally adding fast burst to your walk. I like to use the bursts to jog for a few minutes and then cool back down (but fast walking is just as effective for conditioning your heart and far less jarring on your joints). I’ve also noticed that walking works more of my hamstrings and glutes, and who doesn’t want to firm that area?

Walking to music or a favorite podcast or audiobook is also a lovely way to spend some quality time de-stressing. So here you have the one-two punch of gaining fitness and reducing stress, but the list of benefits goes on and on!

Do you walk? What are some of your tricks for keeping your pace up? Tell us your experiences by leaving a comment below or on Facebook.

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