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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Gentle exercise from EverydayHealth.com

The American Heart Association’s Start! initiative calls on all Americans and their employers to create a culture of physical activity and health to live longer, heart-healthy lives through walking. It offers resources for employers to implement a walking program in the workplace and track employees’ progress in the program. One of Start’s key components, National Start! Walking Day aims to get Americans up and moving for 30 minutes on April 8, 2009. National Start! Walking Day will take place during National Workplace Wellness Week.

Why walk?

There are countless physical activities out there, but walking has the lowest dropout rate of them all! It’s the simplest positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health. Research has shown that the benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Enhance mental well being
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes

There really are so many benefits for such a simple activity!

How To Begin a Walking Program

The AHA offers these steps to begin a walking regimen:
Step 1: Remember that your safety is the most important thing! If you’re a male over 40 or a female over 50, you may want to work with your doctor to set up your exercise program.
Step 2: Get familiar with the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity:

  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activities, 5 days a week
  • Remember that physical activity can be accumulated throughout the day. Three 10-minute sessions is the same as one 30-minute session!
  • If you’re looking to lose weigh or maintain your current weight, aim for 60-90 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day

Step 3: Always measure the intensity of your exercise to know if you’re pushing yourself too hard or not hard enough. An easy way to do this is by taking the talk test:

  • You should be able to sing while working out at a light intensity level
  • If you’re exercising at a moderate intensity level, you should be able to carry on a conversation comfortably
  • If you become too winded or out of breath to carry on a conversation, the activity can be considered vigorous

You can also download this chart from the American College of Sports Medicine and Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which lists physical activities by their level of intensity. Happy trails!

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

By now, most of us have heard about the new recommended guidelines for adults under 65 to get at least 30 minutes a day of moderately intense cardio, five days a week. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) Guidelines here

However, many people have a hard time finding time to exercise after work with long commutes, family obligations and just maintaining the household. At work, people face deadlines, scores of emails, phone calls and piles of paperwork to address. One way for employers and employees to help keep health care costs down, reduce risks of illness, and help improve overall health and well being is to encourage employees to step up their steps!

According to Health Enhancement Systems’ report, Walking: The Health and Economic Impact, there’s no wellness investment that pays a higher dividend than a robust walking program. Here are just a few of the health-related findings specifically associated with walking:

• Protects against heart attack and stroke.
• Helps prevent weight gain.
• Reduces risk of diabetes.
• Lowers overall mortality.
• Decreases heart disease risk.
• Maintains a healthy BMI.
• Enhances fitness with little time or effort.

According to a Loughbrough University study, women who took three 10-minute brisk walks, 5 days a week, had nearly the same increases in fitness levels as women who walked continuously for 30 minutes. In fact, those who walked in briefer sessions lost more weight and inches around the waist than the 30-minute walkers! More here from Health Enhancement Systems

Why Walk?
• Walking is the only exercise where participation rates don’t decrease as
individuals reach middle age and older. One national survey found that
compared with any other group, men 65 and older had the highest percent
of regular walkers — 39.4%.14
• It’s the most popular physical activity in America. More than 56 million people
walk for fitness at least 100 days a year.15
• Walking is inexpensive and easy. All a person needs is a pair of comfortable,
supportive shoes.16
• It comes naturally and can be done in connection with other daily activities —
for example: walking to work, circling the mall or grocery aisles, walking
the dog, or pacing while on the phone.
• Walking is a low impact, safe form of exercise — even for those who are
obese or have arthritis.

How to Find Time to Walk at Work
Employers cannot mandate that employees walk at work. And we don’t encourage employees to shirk their work responsibilities to complete their walking goals. But many smokers take “smoke breaks” at work, leaving the office for 10-15 minutes to smoke a cigarette outdoors. Why shouldn’t the nonsmokers take advantage of a similar break in the work flow for a far healthier result!

And the lunch “hour” is also a great time to get coworkers together and take a brisk walk outside the office or at a nearby mall. Although some do not take a full hour for lunch, and others may want to split the lunch break up into 30 minutes of walking and then time to eat lunch, there are many ways you can fit in a walk a few times during the workweek lunch time.

• A simple plan would be to set up 3 ten-minute walk breaks inside the office building if there is enough space, or weather permitting outside the office.

• Alternatively, staff can set up 20-30 minute walk breaks at lunch time.

• And for those lucky few that take a train or bus or subway to work, try getting off a few blocks or even a half mile earlier than normal and then walk to your destination from there. it’s an easy way to add a few steps to your day and explore your own neighborhood.

Benefits of Walking at Work
Employers have found that allowing employees to take minibreaks leads to increased productivity and job satisfaction. According to Health Enhancement Solutions, walking, like other physical activity, employee productivity increases with physical activity. Findings include:
• Better concentration 1
• Enhanced memory and learning 2
• Improved ability to make complex decisions 1
• Increased physical stamina. 3, 4

Walking promotes an overall sense of wellness by helping people to:
• Control appetite and increase the body’s metabolism 5
• Improve mood and well-being 2, 4
• Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety 2
• Relax, feel more energetic, and control stress 4, 6
• Sleep better. 7, 8

Programs to Encourage People to Walk at Work
• Employers can encourage or even provide low cost pedometers to help staff monitor the steps they take every day. Recomended Top Ten Pedometers. The Sportline 360 Fitness Pedometer is $22 pedometer that’s easier to use, lightweight and clips on a belt or waistline of trowsers Order here
• Employers or Employees can start a Walking Club at work.

Walking Club Tips
• Spread the word – use email, voicemail and posters to get people interested
• Make it fun and make it friendly. Start slowly so that none of your co-workers are too intimidated to continue.
• Set a Walking club schedule so that it become part of your regular daily routine. Even if some people cannot commit to every day, make sure at least 2 of you keep up the schedule to maintain momentum.
• Encourage your colleagues to take walking breaks instead of coffee breaks in order to get some fresh air– and avoid problems sleeping alter at night due to too much caffeine.
• Promote a noon-hour walking group.
• Create an indoor walking route in case of poor weather – go to a local mall if your workspace is not conducive to walking. Walk the stairwells if your office is a high rise or building with access to stairs.
• Track your walking groups progress on a graph or poster in a main foyer to inspire others to join.
• Hold a contest or challenge between departments.
• Host a heart healthy nutritious potluck before or after your walking groups noon-hour walk.
• Ask your colleagues when they would prefer to walk. Some people need a “pick me up” in the morning while others require one in the later afternoon.

Link to the Health Unit of Canada’s tips on organizing a walking group at work

Research Cited:

1 Loehr J, Schwartz T. The Power of Full Engagement; New York, NY, 2003.
2 US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Fundamental to Preventing
Disease Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, June 2002.
3 Murphy MH, Nevill AM, Murtagh EM, Holder RL. The Effect of Walking on Fitness, Fatness and
Resting Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomised, Controlled Trials. Preventive Medicine
2007;44(5):377-385.
4 Fentem PH. Benefits of Exercise in Health and Disease. British Medical Journal
1994;308(6939):1291-1295.

5 Cheng MH, Bushnell D, Cannon DT, Kern M. Appetite Regulation via Exercise Prior or
Subsequent to High-Fat Meal Consumption. Appetite 2009;52(1):193-198.
6 Puetz TW, Flowers SS, O’Connor PJ. A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Aerobic
Exercise Training on Feelings of Energy and Fatigue in Sedentary Young Adults With Persistent
Fatigue. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 2008;77(3):167-174.
7 Galantino ML, Cannon N, Hoelker T, Iannaco J, Quinn L. Potential Benefits of Walking and Yoga
on Perceived Levels of Cognitive Decline and Persistent Fatigue in Women With Breast Cancer.
Rehabilitation Oncology 2007;25(3):3-16.
8 King AC, Pruitt LA, Woo S, Castro CM, Ahn DK, Vitiello MV, Woodward SH, Bliwise DL. Effects of Moderate-Intensity Exercise on Polysomnographic and Subjective Sleep Quality in Older Adults With Mild to Moderate Sleep Complaints. The Journals of Gerontology 2008;63A(9):997-1004.

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