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The 100-Mile a Month Walking Challenge: Take the First Step to a Healthy Life

Truly committed to losing weight, feeling younger, improving overall wellness? The secret is in walking. Take the 100-mile a month walking challenge -- the first step (of many) to improving your life.

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

You want to get healthier, lose weight, feel younger, and improve your overall wellness, but you have some reservations. Perhaps you can't afford a gym membership or expensive equipment. Maybe you're too embarrassed to go to a gym or simply don't want gym equipment cluttering your home. (Who hasn't had a piece of gym equipment become an expensive clothes rack when it's located in your bedroom?) How do you break away from bad habits?

The simple solution to your dilemma is starting a walking regimen. If you can commit just an hour a day to your health and fitness, you can begin a walking challenge that can transform your life. Everyone who truly wants to be healthier can find an hour -- and an hour is all you need to begin to lose weight, feel younger, and improve your wellness. If you truly want to improve your life, you'll find something you can give up to find that hour. Don't let weak excuses get in the way of good intentions.

Some folks get up an hour earlier and walk in the morning. (My partner and I tried that, but I found walking in the darkness of the early morning hard to do.) Some folks give up their lunch hour, bringing a change of clothes and walking during their break. (This solution also is good for people who are dieting, as they tend to eat a smaller lunch.) Some folks walk after work in the late afternoon or early evening. (This timeframe also helps with the transition from being in work mode to being at home.) Finally, some people walk late at night, after dinner. (The problem with this schedule is that people are often too tired to even walk. As with early morning walks, late evening walks are also a bit more dangerous because of the darkness.)

When you find that hour a day -- and you walk at a brisk pace -- you should be able to walk about 6,000 steps, or about 3 miles. Giving yourself a few days off from walking each month to complete other exercises still should result in your walking about 75 miles each month. So, how do you reach that 100-mile mark? You reach the 100-mile mark when you also factor in the walking you do during your normal daily routine. The average person walks about 2,000 steps a day -- which means an additional 30 miles a month -- making your combined walking 100 miles.

What about 10,000 steps? You may have heard the buzz about walking 10,000 steps a day. Well, with this plan you're up to 8,000 steps per day -- the 2,000 from your normal routine and your 6,000 from your hourly walk. How can you achieve the 10,000 steps (which would also push your monthly walking totals to close to 150 miles)? Try adding more steps during your daily routine.

Adding More Steps to Daily Walking Routine

Want to increase your daily step totals? Here are some suggestions for adding more steps to your daily routine:
  • walk to work or school (or get off bus or subway a few blocks early and walk the distance)
  • walk or pace while talking on the phone
  • walk to the store, post office, a neighbor's house, or for other nearby errands
  • walk down the hallway to visit with a classmate, teacher, or co-worker
  • take the stairs -- at least for a few flights -- rather than the elevator
  • use a restroom, copy room, or break room farther from your desk -- or even find one on a different floor (but only if you take the stairs)
  • park your car farther from stores and walk the difference
  • when watching television, get up to change the channel -- and walk around during commercial breaks
  • Benefits of a Walking Fitness Regimen

    According to the Mayo Clinic and other health organizations, there are many benefits of walking, including:
  • lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol
  • raising good (HDL) cholesterol
  • burning calories (approximately 300 per 1-hour walk), losing/maintaining weight, and trimming inches off hips or waist
  • lowering blood pressure
  • improving cardiovascular health (lowering the risk of heart disease and strokes)
  • reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • fighting risk of cancers (especially breast and colon cancer)
  • lowering stress and anxiety
  • boosting self-esteem
  • improving mental health, mood, and outlook
  • staving off degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and arthritis
  • building stronger bones
  • reducing the risk of disabilities
  • increasing energy levels
  • enhancing quality of sleep
  • improving overall health and wellness
  • How to Get Started Walking

    As with any kind of fitness program, start slowly -- and always check with your doctor before you begin.

    The great thing about walking is that you don't much to get started -- find a good pair of shoes (ones that provide support) and some comfortable clothing. Some people buy a pedometer to accurately measure their steps. You also might want a walking log to track your progress. Finally, some people enjoy the solitude (perhaps with an MP3 player playing music with a strong beat for brisk strides), while others prefer walking with friends -- walking buddies who can keep you motivated and on pace.

    Your goal is to gradually get to the one hour of daily walking, adding 10 minutes -- 1,000 steps -- to your walking regimen each week. Try to walk at least 5 of the 7 days of the week. Remember to warm up before walking -- and consider some stretching and flexibility exercises to avoid any potential injuries. Toward the end of longer walks, remember to include a short cool down period.
    Week 1: Start by walking briskly for 10 minutes daily (1,000 steps)
    Week 2: Walk briskly for 20 minutes at daily (2,000 steps)
    Week 3: Walk briskly for 30 minutes daily (3,000 steps)
    Week 4: Walk briskly for 40 minutes daily (4,000 steps)
    Week 5: Walk briskly for 50 minutes daily (5,000 steps)
    Week 6: Walk briskly for 60 minutes daily (6,000 steps)
    Week 7+: Continue walking briskly for 60 minutes daily (6,000 steps)

    Final Thoughts on Walking

    The easiest -- and perhaps safest -- way to start feeling better and becoming more fit is to simply start walking. By making a small commitment -- one hour per day for most of every week -- you'll gain much more in looks, confidence, and overall health and wellness.

    Remember to have rest days to give your body a chance to recover. It's also a good idea to add a few days of resistance (weight) training each month. You can also mix things up by adding bicycling, yoga, dance, and swimming to the mix of your fitness program.

    For a change of pace and to increase your aerobic benefit from walking, consider implementing interval walking once or twice a week. In interval walking, you walk extremely briskly for a few minutes, followed by regular walking, followed by another short period of brisk walking, followed by regular walking. (For example, complete a 5-minute very fast walk, followed by a 15-minute normal pace, followed by a 10-minute brisk walk, followed by a 15-minute normal pace, followed by a 5-minute very fast walk, followed by a 15-minute normal pace and cool down.)

    Finally, while walking you might also consider doing mini-standing ab crunches (sucking your gut in and tightening your buttocks) and increasing your arm movements.

    Find more details our 10 Critical Walking Tips, which includes key safety tips, Web walking resources, and more.

    Interested in reprinting or republishing this article? Please refer to our Article Reprint Guidelines.

    Avid wellness guru Dr. Randall S. Hansen Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., is an avid bicyclist, adventurist, environmentalist, and student of wellness and photography, with a mission of empowering others to lead great lives. He is Founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites. Dr. Hansen is also the founder and caretaker of this site, EmpoweringRetreat.com, as well as founder of EmpoweringAdvice.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com or reach him by email at CEO(at)empoweringsites.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

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