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Add Years to Your Life by Adding Steps to Your Day

A longer, healthier life may be closer than you think – in fact, it may be within walking distance. The average person already takes about 2,500 to 5,000 steps per day. Add more by starting a regular exercise walking program, and you could:

  • Boost your energy, stamina and mood
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Burn more calories
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Lower your risk for type 2 diabetes and slow the progression of osteoporosis

Here's how to take to the sidewalk to improve your fitness and your health.

First, talk through your new routine with your doctor. Because it's a relatively gentle exercise, walking is safe for people with most health conditions, including heart disease, arthritis and back pain. In fact, it can usually improve them. But your doctor can tell you if you need to take any special precautions.

Then, take some time to plan and prepare. You'll want to decide:

  • When to walk. Track what you do for a week and find out when walk breaks would fit into your schedule. Common times include first thing in the morning, at lunch or right after work.
  • Where to walk. Locate a safe route along well-traveled streets. Investigate which businesses are open at the time you usually walk.
  • Whom to walk with. A partner or group can keep you safe – and motivated.
  • What to wear. Choose comfortable, supportive shoes with breathable fabrics, a firm heel and thick, flexible soles. Models designed for running or walking are usually best. Wear clothes that keep you dry by absorbing sweat from your skin.

Aim to walk 3 to 4 days each week. To keep track of your number of steps, wear a pedometer. The anti-obesity campaign recommends a goal of 8,500 daily steps to stay fit.

What's more, studies show that people who wear a pedometer boost the number of daily steps they took by at least 2,000. That's about a mile. Other good results? Pedometer wearers lose weight and reduce their systolic blood pressure.

Sources: Krames Staywell, Mayo Clinic

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