Should your boss or the principal of your school suddenly announce over the intercom today, “Okay, everybody, take a hike!” you might think it was his or her idea of an April fool’s gag.
But not if you know the “other” significance of the first day of April – that is, National Walking Day 2015.
In fact, today marks the ninth annual observance of the event, which is part of the American Heart Association’s “My Heart, My Life” initiative.
In keeping with the occasion, you’re invited to “join millions of people across the nation as they wear their sneakers to work or school and pledge to start a healthier lifestyle” by walking for at least 30 minutes.
Of course, the idea isn’t just to do that once a year. Promoters of the event hope it will make participants feel so good, they’ll continue to do it every day – or at least, as often as possible.
So why do all that walking – especially when you have so many other activities occupying your day? Well, here are some of the reasons:
- Regular walking has been shown to improve cardiovascular health by helping to maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, improving your heart’s pumping capacity, stabilizing blood-pressure levels, reducing your resting cardiac rate and increasing levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol.
- Walking helps to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression – and is an excellent way of relieving the pressures of work or school.
- Taking daily walks increases the flow of blood to your brain, which makes you more alert, creative and productive. In fact, a study sponsored by the National Council on Aging found that people over 60 exhibited greater mental sharpness once they began walking at a rate of a mile every 16 minutes for 45 minutes a day.
One of the best things about walking, of course, is that you can do it either as a solo, family or social activity. Some companies even conduct informal business meetings while out on walks –turning what some employees might consider a sleep-inducing session into a zippy one instead. You can even walk while teleconferencing!
And you can do all that while you’re out enjoying the fresh air and sunshine – and even “communing with nature.”
Now, you may not have the time and endurance to do walk as many miles as some dedicated walkers I know are in the habit of doing (measuring their progress with a pedometer). Getting out for 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week, is what’s usually recommended to reap the many benefits of this most basic form of exercise. And the best part is, you can do it in increments – not necessarily all at once.
And, of course, if you own a dog, the chances are you’ll be doing at least that much walking, in all kinds of weather.
So even if you’re not in the habit of wearing sneakers or walking shoes to work, it might be a good idea to keep some at your desk – and if nothing else, “steal” ten minutes or so from your lunch break for a quick walk.
Just think of it as “walking for your life.”