A friend of mine was looking at her pedometer and complaining that it was nearly impossible to reach the goal of 10,000 steps a day with her busy schedule. I got curious. I thought I was an active person. I walked everywhere, I spent a lot of time outdoors with the kids. Surely, 10,000 steps weren’t a problem for me!
I downloaded a pedometer app for my iPhone and it was time for a reality check. Even with my relatively active lifestyle, I was only walking around 7,000 steps a day unless I consciously looked for more opportunities to move.
Why 10,000 steps? The recommendation for 10,000 steps originated in Japan in the 1960s. Dr Yoshiro Hatano found that an average person takes between 3,500 and 5,000 steps a day. An increase to 10,000 is totally doable for most of us and it would mean a marked difference in people’s fitness and wellbeing.
The easiest form of exercise
Almost anyone can do it. You don’t to pay gym fees or find special equipment, you don’t even have to take too much time out of your day. You have to get to places anyway, so why not substitute some of your driving for walking?
Proven health benefits
Walking strengthens the cardiovascular system and reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. It helps manage cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. It strengthens the bones and improves balance. If that’s not enough, walking also reduces mental stress. How many of us would say ‘no’ to less stress?
Time for learning and creativity
I usually use my walking time to listen to audio books or podcasts. Often new thoughts just pop into my mind. You can do it, too. Just remember to bring a notebook to capture your great ideas.
Opportunity for ‘me’ time
If I tell my extroverted, type-A husband that I’m going for a walk because I need time for myself, he won’t get it. In his minds this can easily translate into “I don’t want to spend time with you, so I’d rather walk in the streets aimlessly”. On the other hand, when I say that I need to do my 10,000 steps, he can relate – I have a measurable goal and I’m going after it.
It’s been a few months since I’ve downloaded the pedometer app and I’m still hooked. It’s like playing a computer game – you’re always trying to get a higher score to get to the next level, only there are a lot more benefits than just having fun.
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Running and walking can help prevent heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes – they can even lift your mood! However, it is difficult to compare the two. As with all cardio exercises, the goal is to keep your heart rate at an elevated level for an extended period of time. Cardio exercise is also the best way to lose weight. If weight loss is your goal, running or jogging will be more beneficial than walking the same distance, as they use more energy and thus burn more calories.
The only con for running is that it can increase your risk of injury or exhaustion. You need to know your limits and not push yourself too hard. It is also imperative to have a proper running shoe, in order to support your feet, ankles and knees. For the same reason, it is preferable to run on a slightly softer surface, like grass or a running track.
Walking is considered better for the elderly and those prone to injury. Some have found that walking with hand weights can enhance the exercise, as the extra pounds will help you burn more energy, and tone your arm muscles at the same time. If your fitness levels aren’t fantastic, you might also be better to start walking and work your way up to running. While jogging can be difficult for those who don’t yet have the stamina, these same people may be able to walk for twice the distance.
Regardless of whether you’re walking or jogging, it is vital you do it daily, or as often as possible, for it to have any benefit at all. While finding the motivation can be difficult, there are many ways to make exercise fun! Try to remember that the ultimate goal of exercise is not to enhance your looks – although that is a positive side effect! It is to improve your health and quality of life. This is a long term commitment and there is no time like the present to start your routine.
Exercising may seem challenging or risky during your pregnancy. However, exercising is crucial in maintaining good health for you and baby, and there are many safe pregnancy exercises that you’ll enjoy doing. Here are three easy second trimester exercises.
Walking is the safest exercise you can practice in your second trimester. Walking, as a low-intensity form of exercise, is great for burning calories and staying active in the outdoors without falling too short of breath or getting dehydrated. Walking around your neighborhood where there are slight hills is even better for achieveing a stronger, more sculpted butt, and firmer legs and thighs. Aside from the physical benefits, walking also promotes cardiovascular health, which is essential for a safe, healthy pregnancy.
2. Prenatal yoga
Prenatal yoga is specifically designed for pregnant women throughout their pregnancy. Yoga is not only excellent for improving your strength and balance, but also for mental relaxation, stress and anxiety relief. Yoga is also effective at alleviating cramps and the chronic lower back pain often experienced during the second trimester of pregnancy.
Another advantage of prenatal yoga is the breathing practices. Yoga emphasises proper breathing techniques, making it the ideal choice for pregnant women as proper breathing is imperative when giving birth.
3. Free weights
While heavy lifting may seem risky, using light dumb bells to work out is a great way to stay fit during pregnancy and to prepare you for lifting and carrying your baby. Use 1.5kg or at most, 2.5kg dumb bells to perform 10 reps of bicep curls, tricep curls, military presses, lunges, squats and more. You can even incorporate free weights into your walking routine for an increase in the amount of calories burned.
What are your favourite pregnancy exercises during your second trimester?