One of my favorite ways to unwind is to take a walk. Many evenings and weekends you’ll find me walking in my neighborhood or on the paths at local parks. It’s a great opportunity to clear my head while also burning some calories. Many people I talk to choose walking as an easy way to add activity into their lifestyle, so I thought it might be helpful to share some tips to help you get started walking, too.
- Consult with your healthcare team before starting any type of physical activity or making any lifestyle changes.
- It’s a good idea to test your blood sugar before, during and after physical activity, according to Joslin Diabetes Center.
- Start with good shoes and socks. “You want to go to the shoe stores where the really serious runners go,” said Wendy Bumgardner, walking guru at About.com. “They won’t look down on you because you’re a walker versus a runner, and they really look at the way you walk. They can tell you if you need motion control or neutral shoes and may recommend something sturdier for those who are overweight. Proper shoes are the biggest key to being comfortable when you are walking.”
- Watch your posture. “You have got to stand correctly,” Wendy said. “You should be looking up and not hunched over so you can be aware of tripping hazards. Usually you want a little bit of natural arm swing with a bend in your elbows.”
Going the Distance
- Consider building up your distance gradually, like Patrick Totty. “I started walking a mile every day, and then added a second mile every day,” he said. “Then I extended to a 1 ½ miles in the morning, and 1 ½ miles in the evening, then three miles in the morning and three miles in the evening over a varied terrain,” he said.
- Think about using a pedometer to track your steps and to help set fitness goals. “The first thing I started doing was keeping track of how many steps I took every day,” said Denise Elliott, who uses a Fitbit®. “Steps are empirical. I could say, I’m averaging about 4,500 steps a day, and if I wanted to increase by 10 percent, then I want to shoot for 4,900 next month. That was important for me.”
- Wear your pedometer correctly. “You have to wear it over the side seam of your pants or skirt,” said Kathy Stroh, MS, RD, CDE*. “A lot of people wear it in front and that misaligns the pedometer for optimal reading. The device needs to be perpendicular, pointing straight down to the ground, or it won’t measure your steps accurately. If you wear it on a side seam, you’re more likely to catch every time your hip and your knee moves.”
- Keep a record of your progress. “There’s value in having a written record of what you do,” said Kathy. “If [someone sees] they’re now up to 3,000 steps a day, or if they’re up to 1,000 steps in 15 minutes, that’s evidence of their progress. They are more likely to have a feeling of success, and there’s also a clear measure of progress to share with their clinician.”
Moving toward Motivation
- Sign up for charity walks, such as the American Diabetes Association Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® or the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes®. It can help to have a cause behind you to keep you moving. “I first started [walking] in honor of my mother, but now it has grown into an individual movement,” said Erik Bendl. “If I can get one person to love and start taking care of themselves, to make one small change, to be there for their family – that’s what keeps me going.”
- Walk with a pet or loved one. “It was almost like I couldn’t walk just for myself,” said Vanessa Nemeth. “I needed inspiration and knew I definitely had to take care of this dog. I was too heavy at the time to jog but I could definitely walk. I tried to focus on what I could do instead of what I couldn’t do. With diabetes and exercise, there’s almost always something you can do; you just have to figure out what it is.”
- Join online communities for support. Vanessa enjoys SparkPeople.com, for example. “There’s a group of people who are trying to go cross-country virtually, either biking, walking or running across the US,” she said. “You log your miles, get little trophies and see how other people are doing. It’s fun to see how far you’ve gotten.”
- Watch inspirational shows while walking indoors. Watching “The Biggest Loser®” helps motivate Martha Zimmer. “I started watching, and boy oh boy, was I educated,” she said. “That show motivated me because those people were losing weight, and everybody who was diabetic on that show seemed to gain better control of their blood sugar by the end. You can’t fight that. Now I watch it to keep me motivated while I’m walking on my Gazelle®.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m more excited to hit the streets now! I appreciate the idea of focusing on what you can do and building on previous success. What’s your favorite walking tip? I encourage you to share in the comment section below – you never know when your idea might offer just the inspiration someone else needs!
All the best,
Disclosures: Fitbit is a registered trademark of Fitbit, Inc.
Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes is a registered service mark of American Diabetes Association, Inc.
Walk to Cure Diabetes is a registered service mark of JDRF International.
The Biggest Loser is a registered trademark of Reveille LLC.
Gazelle is a registered trademark of Fitness Quest, Inc.
*“CDE” is a certification mark owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.