I’ve mentioned before that I’m back on a diet kick. I need to lose some weight (I’m about half way there to my final target already), and am mostly doing it through diet. But I want to also get fitter. Walking for exercise and health is my start point. I’m definitely walking to lose weight and I’m hoping it will work at least initially until I start proper other exercise again.

I want to be able to walk at a decent speed up the hill walking the dog without being so out of breath…and without my shins hurting and calves burning.

I want to be able to get back to dancing once it’s all safely opened up again. Firstly so I can be less sweaty and be able to wear more clothing options. Also to be able to dance for more than one or two dances without stopping inbetween for a rest. And also, to make it nicer for people to dance with me. If you’re a good dancer, you will get dances from people you know. But if you want to dance with people you don’t know, it’s easier to get dances if you’re a healthy weight. I know I’d rather not grab a handful of flab when I’m dancing with someone. And with lots of moves requiring arms moving around or over the body, it’s a lot harder to dance with someone who’s on the larger side. You need to adapt moves. .

Ideally I’d like to get back to playing some tennis again. Without struggling to get through a session, and being able and more willing to move to the ball.

Walking for exercise benefits and tips

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Making time to move is always challenging, and Covid wasn’t really that good an excuse. I’ve got a sedentary job. In the office I move about more than working from home. I go and talk to others around the office, we’ve 4 flights of stairs, and most times I’d try and get out for a quick walk around town. But working from home has made me lazier.

While others spent lockdown walking miles, I stayed indoors. I can see countryside and fields from our windows so I didn’t feel the need to get out to nature. I dislike walking in fields, even with the dogs. I prefer seeing people and buildings, not just a pretty view. On occasion I’d get dragged out to help N walk the dog, but during the wetter months, my walking boots are too small and my wellies are too tight on my calves. The wide calf wellies I want and need are never in stock.

I never thought I’d get my steps up to or above 10k a day. But I was inspired by Emma from Island Living 365 after she was sharing her bedroom steps tally during self isolation. If she could do it in one room, then I should be able to do it in the whole house and garden.

The benefits of walking

The 10k steps daily aim that’s always been said to be good, isn’t necessarily the target for everyone. Exertion and getting the heart rate up is more important. So if you’re just having an amble with no urgency, it’s not going to really help health and fitness. But if you’re more vigorous in your walking intention, and vary the speed and amount, then walking is going to be more beneficial.

There are lots of articles explaining why walking is so good, especially if you need low impact exercise. I know my knees wouldn’t cope with running, so walking is a good alternative.

The advice if you want to make walking count, is to be walking at a speed or exertion level where you can still hold a conversation, but you shouldn’t be able to sing.

I love numbers, so for me, seeing what my heart rate is and what level of exercise I’m doing on my fitbit is really interesting. Obviously it just counts steps usually but if I’m walking for more than 10-15 minutes, it will eventually start to kick in recording it as exercise. The funniest was it suggesting I was on an elliptical trainer. It’s more realistic now it’s classing it as aerobics.

The walking challenge

It took a while to work up to it. First I started walking up and down stairs, walking around the bedrooms and downstairs each hour. Getting active rather than sitting down for so long was helping. I also need to get back to stair training! Our stairs at work are a killer, even for fit people, so I need to work up to being back in the office.

I increased that to 500 an hour – working from home means I’m not stopping by desks to chat, or having a long walk to get water, so I’m working longer hours. It means I’ve got that flexibility to do my steps.

Gradually I’ve been building it up – I’ll step on the spot, different timings, and movements, then walk around normally to ease out my calves. At lunch, before work and after work I’ll do more, and in the evenings I’ll do up to 20 mins in front of the tv to finish my steps off.

The only hard thing is when I’m not alone in the house. The OH would think I’m nuts because he just says go out walking in the fields. N would also think I’m weird. I know I’ll struggle when I’m back in the office too, to keep up the steps. But I’ll give it a go.

I’m now hitting 10k most days, and usually more than that. I’ve never felt the urge to hit my target on my fitbit, but now I am. I know it’s helping alongside my diet, and helping with my general wellness. I can see the fitness/cardio level improve on my fitness tracker.

If you think you’ll never get more active because you’re too busy or can’t get out, then it is possible. Here’s my tips on getting more active at home.

10 tips for walking at home

1. Start small

Walk every hour, challenge yourself to pick up more steps each time you get up to walk, and build it up over time.

2. Have 2 or 3 longer walking slots

Long walking times means more opportunity to get the heart rate up.

3. Don’t just step on the spot

Try a wide step, step out and in, box step. Add in punches too if you want more of a workout.

4. Step at any opportunity

When going to get something, walk around a bit further than needed. Step while watching tv. If on a zoom call, walk round (if you don’t need to be on camera or take notes).

5. Step to music

Just a couple of tracks will get your steps up without you realising it. Faster music is better for getting the heart rate up, I find latin based pop the best for speed, but also variation in beat to keep the walking more dance styled than straight stepping. Try 90s dance music, latin pop, energiser stations on Alexa/Amazon music, or look out workout playlists on Spotify. Or create your own.

6. Use Youtube workouts

If you prefer to be encouraged in a class, try youtube for walking workouts for sessions of different lengths.

7. Record it

It’s well known that if you set a target and measure towards it, you’re more likely to achieve the goal. So find someway to record your steps. You can use mobile phone apps but I’m not a believer in these being very accurate when compared with proper fitness trackers. My experience has been that trackers with a heart rate monitor are more reliable than just wristbands which tend to measure higher. I also set my fitbit*(settings to say it’s on my dominant arm, even though it’s not. That way I know it doesn’t over-exaggerate my steps. But you can use anything, just look for the increasing trend, rather than it being totally precise.

You also need to step quite purposely. When I dance around the kitchen, unless I wave my arms around it doesn’t count most of my steps because I tend to glide in the dancing I do, rather than doing big high obvious steps. But if you’re walking for exercise you should see natural arm movements alongside quite purposeful steps.

8, Join walking or step challenges

With apps or fitness trackers you can join friends in challenges. Or just challenge yourself. Whatever encourages you. Just don’t forget to sync your device on time. I’m terrible for syncing mine, so it always looks like I’m rubbish.

9. Remember any stepping counts

Indoors, outdoors. Putting the shopping away, gardening. As long as you’re moving, it’ll count.

10. Enjoy it

With all exercise, if you make it fun you’ll enjoy it more and keep doing it.

Do you walk for exercise? What are your tips for getting steps up inside or out?

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