Tips to Help Make Walking More Fun and Effective 

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By Michael McGuire

With spring’s arrival and the days getting warmer and longer, people in New York can put on their shoes and experience the many health benefits of walking—which may be one of the simplest and best ways to exercise.

April is Move More Month, an annual celebration established by the American Heart Association to encourage people, schools, workplaces and communities to get out and walk for at least 30 minutes* and put themselves on the road to a healthier lifestyle.

*Check with your doctor to determine what activity level is right for you.

Studies have shown walking more and sitting less may help people maintain a healthier weight, ward off depression and prevent serious health issues like heart disease. And a report from Harvard Medical School concluded that walking can help curb sweet cravings, boost the immune system and ease joint pain.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help make walking more fun and effective during April and year-round:

Think FIT

While many people aim for achieving an aggregate number of total steps each day, research shows that moving frequently throughout the day and taking at least one brisk, 30-minute walk also can have health benefits. That’s why people should think FIT, which stands for frequency (500 steps within seven minutes six times per day), intensity (3,000 steps within 30 minutes each day) and tenacity (at least 10,000 total steps per day). If those targets seem daunting, remember it helps to start slowly and build up over time. 

Find Friends

Walking can also double as a chance to socialize with friends, family or coworkers. Plus, research shows there are several advantages to recruiting a workout friend, likely because that person can hold you accountable and offer support. And starting or joining a walking group at work or in your neighborhood can prove helpful, too. In fact, working out in a group lowers stress by 26 percent, compared to working out alone.

Walk with a Wearable

Recent studies show that people tend to overestimate how much they exercise and underestimate sedentary time. To help understand your actual activity patterns and, ideally, reinforce positive habits to support sustained change, consider using a wearable device. This increasingly popular technology has been shown to help people remain diligent in achieving those daily step goals, while encouraging seemingly small healthy habits—each day—that can eventually translate to meaningful improvements.   

Earn Incentives

A majority of employers (86 percent) offer incentive-based wellness programs, including some that enable employees to earn more than $1,000 per year by meeting certain daily walking goals. Similarly, websites such as achievemint.com enable people to earn cash rewards for walking.

Throughout April, people can go to uhcwalkingmaps.com, sign the pledge to walk more and become eligible for a chance to win one of more than 100 walking-related prizes, including a trip for two to hike the Grand Canyon or Apple Watch. On behalf of the first 25,000 people to sign the pledge, UnitedHealthcare will donate a total of $25,000 to help reduce childhood obesity, including contributions to Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.

So, this Move More Month, consider these walking tips as you take a step toward better health.

Michael McGuire is New York Chief Executive Officer for UnitedHealthcare.

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