On the website canadasafeway.10kaday.com you can find three virtual trails to walk through various parts of Canada. Sign up for a tip of the day, find information about healthy recipes, and join the Sole Mates, a virtual way to walk with others. Ask at your Safeway Pharmacy for more details.
Health Canada recommends 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity every day to stay healthy. Ten-minute blocks of activity can help you reach this goal. The benefits of physical activity range from decreasing stress and reducing body weight and blood glucose levels, to lowering your chances of developing cardiovascular disease or osteoporosis (less dense bones).
Many different forms of exercise are possible. Walking is the most common physical activity in Canada. While benefits are similar to other forms of exercise, walking is much easier on the joints. Little equipment is needed, except for comfortable clothing and proper footwear. Best of all, walking is free and can be done almost anywhere.
The number of steps people take in a day varies from person to person. Most inactive adults take between 2,000 and 4,000 steps per day. However, a healthy number of steps for most adults is 10,000 per day – about seven kilometres. Most of us need to make an effort to go out and walk to get enough steps in a day.
To count your steps, use a pedometer. This device records each step you take. Pedometers first became popular in Japan, where they have been used for many years.
A pedometer is worn at the waist and counts the number of steps by tracking the up-and-down motion of the hips. More sophisticated models measure kilometres, heart rate or calories burned. Most pedometers are not too expensive, ranging from ten to fifty dollars.
Research has shown that consistent physical activity, especially walking, improves overall health. By tracking the number of steps taken in a day, those who use pedometers are often motivated to go the extra mile. Most people like planning their own walking program using a pedometer, and feel a sense of accomplishment when they meet their goals each week. Pedometers are becoming a very popular, an inexpensive tool to measure and motivate daily physical activity.
Pedometer test days help to set goals. Wear your pedometer while taking your usual number of steps for a few days. Take the highest daily number and add 500 steps to find your first goal. Strive to walk this many steps each day for a week. Each week, add another 500 steps to your daily goal until you are consistently walking 10,000 steps per day.
Remember to check with your doctor before starting any new physical activity program. While 10,000 steps a day is a good goal for most adults, it may not be appropriate for everyone.
Adding extra activity to your daily schedule can become part of your usual routine. There are many ways to incorporate more steps in your daily routine.
Canada's Guide to Physical Activity gives even more tips and ideas for increasing physical activity. (You can find a copy at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/pau-uap/paguide.)
Many people keep a record of their steps on a calendar. Some even use a website that has a map to track distance from one location to another. For example, Penticton Steps Out has walking programs for both adults and kids that have been used as models in British Columbia. (For more information, log on to www.stepsout.com.) Pedometer walking programs similar to the on-line variety are often offered through local community centres. Check into yours or just pick up a pedometer and start stepping.
Getting more physical activity is a good goal for most Canadians. Regular physical activity helps with weight loss and disease prevention, and can even improve your mood. Talk to your doctor before starting an activity program.