3 Incredible Reasons You Should Walk More

With our go-go-go lives, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the world of smart phones, fast transportation, and instant gratification. And many people follow the go-big-or-go-home attitude in their exercise philosophy alongside all of this technologic stress. This means that, for many, gentle walking and spending time with your thoughts falls by the wayside. But walking is equally important for your mind and body — just as much as your CrossFit or yoga class. Plus, it’s free! The benefits of walking are oft overlooked, but here are 3 incredible reasons you should do more of it.

Brain booster. According to a study from 2010, adults who walked for 40 minutes thrice a week over the course of a year exhibited brain growth in their hippocampus region. This is the region associated with spatial memory. That means the simple act of going for a walk a few times a week actually improves your brain function! Your brain needs exercise just as much as the rest of your body and, believe it or not, walking can improve both.

Energizer. People with fatigue often can experience vast improvements when incorporating gentle daily exercise like walking into their programs. As opposed to intense bouts of cardio, which can sometimes make you feel more fatigued… and more hungry, walking is a nourishing workout that lubricates your joints and energizes your entire being without over stressing or exhausting it. It also helps with circulation of blood and lymph and can make you feel more awake and alert. What’s more, walking can be meditative, which helps to reduce stress levels and energize your mind — especially if you’re out in nature.

Depression zapper. A 1999 study compared the effects of exercise, Zoloft, and a combination of the two on moderately depressed adults over time. The results were quite interesting. While medication may reduce the symptoms of depression more quickly, consistent exercise like walking squelches it just as effectively in the long term. The study showed that after 16 weeks there were no significant differences in the rates of depression between the groups. What’s more, after 10 months those who exercised without medication had significantly lower rates of depression than the other two groups. Even if you aren’t depressed getting out for a steady walk is a terrific mood booster.

Walking also can boost creativity and overall happiness, so don’t let your morning stroll fall by the wayside. Get out there in the fresh air and cruise for a mile or two. It’ll do your body and mind some good.

 

How to Overcome Any Excuse Not to Exercise

Most people begin a new fitness program with great intentions and lots of motivation--only to find both waning within a few weeks. The realities of work, school, social and family demands overwhelm the desire to get fit, and exercise gets puts on the back burner. Before you start your next fitness kick, use these 6 strategies to make sure you don't use "being busy" as an excuse to not get moving.

Click here to see how you can overcome any excuse not to Exercise

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60-Second Cardio Moves

SparkPeople has always promoted the benefits of a 10-minute workout as a great way to start incorporating fitness into your life. Studies have shown that the benefits of 10-minute fitness bursts, including improved blood sugar control, can last for up to an hour after your workout ends!  
 
Whether you aim for just a few minutes at a time, several short workouts throughout the day, or cut yourself off at the 10-minute mark, we've got plenty of ideas for you to squeeze in cardio in as little as 60 seconds!
 
Here are 10 cardio moves you can use to build a custom workout that works for you and your schedule—no equipment required. There are several ways to approach this:

  • Choose one move to repeat for as long as you can sustain it (up to several minutes) 
  • Try each move for 60 seconds, one after the next, resting between exercises if you need to. 
  • Select one move to incorporate into a high intensity interval workout, shifting between max effort and low effort. For example, try the exercise at a fast rate for 20 seconds, followed by a slow to moderate pace for 40 seconds. Repeat the same move again (or try a new one) to extend your workout as long as you'd like. 
  • You can mix up any number of moves to add up to 10 minutes. For example, go through five of your favorite moves, then repeat the series one more time. 
  • Use these simple movements a minute at a time throughout your day for a fun (and caffeine-free) pick-me-up!

 60-Second Cardio Moves

 

1High Knees March in Place 

Starting Position: Stand tall with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed, and hands on your hips. 

Action: Breathe deeply as you march in place with high knees, driving your knee up toward the ceiling with each step. Keep your hands on your hips as your march. 

Special Instructions: Make sure you don't lean backward as you lift your knee each time. Lift your knees higher and/or march faster to increase the intensity. 

 

2. V-Steps

Starting Position: Stand tall with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed, feet together, arms at your sides, elbows bent. 

Action: Picture a V on the floor with your feet standing on the bottom point. Breathe deeply as you step forward and back with the following foot pattern while pumping your arms at your sides: left step (forward) to the left point of the V, right step (forward) to the right point of the V, left step (back) to the bottom point of the V, right step (back) to the bottom point of the V. Repeat. 

Special Instructions: For variety, you can also switch legs to lead with the right foot instead of the left foot (optional).You can increase the intensity of this exercise by taking bigger steps and/or moving more quickly. You can decrease the intensity by taking smaller steps, moving slower, and/or placing your hands on your hips

 

3. Reverse Disco Step 

Starting Position: Stand tall with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed, legs placed wider than the hips and feet turned outward. Place both hands on your hips. 

Action: Breathe deeply and reach your left arm across your chest at a diagonal toward the ceiling. Pull your left hand down and across the front of your body toward the floor as you tap your right toes behind your left foot. Return to the starting position and repeat on this side (pictured) OR switch sides repeatedly. 

Special Instructions: Move quicker and/or take larger steps to increase intensity. Slow down and make your movement smaller to decrease intensity. 

 

4Step Touch with Double Punches 

Starting Position: Stand tall with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed and elbows pointing behind you, palms next to your waist. You can place a resistance band, measuring tape, jump rope or other long object on the floor next to you as a guide (optional). 

Action: Breathe deeply as you step-touch side to side while punching both arms forward on each step to the side and pulling them back in to the starting position on each tap (touch). 

Special Instructions: If using a guide on the floor, step across it each time and monitor your footwork to avoid tripping. Be sure to move laterally without twisting or rotating your body. The wider you step to the side and the faster you move, the more intense this exercise will become. 

 

5. Twisty Hop 

Starting Position: Stand tall with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed, legs together, arms at your sides, and elbows bent 90 degrees with your forearms parallel to the floor in front of you. From there, twist from the waist so that your torso (and arms) turn to the right and your lower body turns toward the left. 

Action: This movement combines a twist with a hop. From the start position, hop with both legs together and land so that your lower body now points toward the right and the upper body twists to the left. Hop again, landing in the start position and repeat, twisting to the opposite side during each hop. 

Special Instructions: Because of the twisting nature of this exercise, practice caution or avoid this exercise completely if you have any lower back or hip problems. Make sure your back is straight and your abs are engaged at all times. When twisting your upper and lower body should always point in opposite directions of each other. Focus on that twisting coming from the waist. Hopping higher and/or faster will increase the intensity of this movement. 

 

6. Jumping Jacks 

Starting Position: Stand tall with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed, arms at your sides, and feet together. 

Action: Hop out with both feet while extending your arms out, forming an X with your arms and legs. Hop back in to the starting position (legs together, arms at your sides). Repeat. 

Special Instructions: Be sure to land softly, keeping the knees slightly bent to reduce impact. Move more quickly to increase the intensity. 

 

7. Mountain Climbers

Starting Position: Stand tall with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed, legs together, and arms at your sides. Bend forward to touch the floor (bend knees if necessary), shift your weight into your hands, then jump or walk your legs behind you to start in a plank position (hands under shoulders, abs pulled in tight, body in a straight line). 

Action: Breathe deeply, keeping your back straight and abs engaged and "march" by bringing one knee toward your chest, return it to the floor, and then bring the opposite knee toward your chest. Repeat, continuously switching sides. 

Special Instructions: Keep your belly pulled in tight at all times and make sure your hips do not fall toward the floor or lift toward the ceiling as you move your legs. You can march in this position (pictured) for a lighter intensity or move more quickly into a jog or run to increase your intensity. 

 

8. Front Kicks with Squat 

Starting Position: Stand tall with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed, arms at your sides, elbows bent and feet hip-width apart. Make fists with your hands and bring your hands up in front of your chin as if in "defense." Keep arms up at all times. 

Action: Breathe deeply, and squat down, shifting your weight into your heels while bending from the knees and hips. Push up out of your squat and shift your weight into your left to perform a front kick with your right leg (lift your right left knee toward the ceiling, extend your right knee to straighten your leg, then bend your knee again. Return your foot to the floor and squat down again. Repeat front kicks on this leg OR alternate legs after each kick (not pictured). After several repetitions on this leg, switch sides. 

Special Instructions: Keep your abs engaged, the knee of your standing leg slightly bent, and find a focal point in front of you to aid in balancing. Try to avoid leaning back as your kick to the front. Make sure your knee does not lock when you extend your leg. To increase intensity, squat lower, kick higher and/or move faster. To decrease intensity, squat smaller, kick lower to the floor, and move slower. 

 

9. Back Kicks 

Starting Position: Stand with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed, elbows bent, hands in fists, feet together, and hands up in front of your chin as in in "defense." Keep your arms up at all times. Bend your knees and hips to come into a small squat, leaning slightly forward from the waist. 

Action: Breathe deeply, shifting your weight into your left foot to prepare to kick your right leg. A proper kick should string together four phases: 1) Bend your right knee and lift your foot off the floor bringing your leg slightly behind you. 2) Extend your right knee to straighten your leg (foot flexed) to kick an imaginary target behind you. 3) Bend your knee again. 4) Return your foot to the floor. Repeat back kicks on this leg OR alternate legs after each kick (not pictured). After several repetitions on this leg, switch sides. 

Special Instructions: Keep your abs engaged, the knee of your standing leg slightly bent, and find a focal point in front of you to aid in balancing. Limit the amount of forward leaning as your kick to the back. Make sure your knee does not lock when you extend your leg. Kick lower to the floor to decrease intensity or higher to increase intensity. Slow down or speed up depending on your fitness level. 

 

10. Pivot and Reach 

Starting Position: Stand tall with your back straight, abs engaged, shoulders relaxed, legs spaced wider than your hips, feet turned outward and knees bent slightly. Place your hands on your hips. 

Action: Keeping both feet on the floor at all times, breathe deeply and pivot on the ball of your left foot (heel off the floor) and turn your body toward the right while reaching your left arm overhead next to your ear. Return to the starting position, facing front, hands on hips. Switch sides by pivoting on the ball of your right foot, turning your body toward the left and reaching your right arm overhead. Return to center. Switch sides and repeat. 

Special Instructions: Keep your abdominals engaged throughout this exercise. To increase intensity, move more quickly and/or squat more deeply when returning to the start position each time.