Walk 10K Steps a Day – Mindfully

Our spring challenge, as part of the 2013 Passport to Wellness program, is to walk 10K steps a day. You’ll find many different ways to increase your steps on a daily basis. For example:

  • If possible, walk instead of taking public transportation.
  • Take stairs instead of an elevator whenever you can.
  • Park farther away from your destination, like at the supermarket.
  • Incorporate walking meditation into your routine, which add steps and helps you to tap into your own strength to be mindful and stay in the present.

Understanding Walking Meditation

When’s the last time you’ve just walked, and not been absorbed in thought? When you practice walking meditation, you are not trying to get anywhere. It is sufficient to just be with each step, realizing you are just where you are. The goal is to be there completely—to focus on the sensations in your feet or your legs or alternately feel your whole body moving. You also can integrate awareness of your breathing with the experience of walking. You can do a formal walking meditation by setting aside time and walking in lanes or circles, walking back and forth, typically outdoors. You also can practice whenever you’re walking at a normal pace, like to or from the office, grocery store or even in your apartment. Simply bring attention to your body and the sensations present when you walk. Walking meditation helps you put the mind to rest because it literally has no place to go and nothing interesting happening to keep it entertained. If you haven’t tried walking meditation, try it. Every step brings you closer to your 10K steps a day.

Walking Tips

1) What can walking do for you?
It’s simple. It’s free. You can do it most anywhere, most anytime – it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule. And it can help you:

  • Manage stress
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce blood cholesterol
  • Increase cardiovascular endurance
  • Manage your weight
  • Stay strong and active

2) Be a safe outdoor walker
If you’ll be outside early morning or later evening, wear light-colored clothing or reflectors. Also, try to walk on well-lit streets as much as possible and walk against the traffic. This way, you can see the traffic coming and be aware of any potential danger coming toward you.
Walk with awareness and caution, assuming that no drivers see you. Be especially cautious of driveways. You should always be aware of what is happening in your environment.

3) To Stretch or not to Stretch?
The answer… STRETCH! Even if you are short on time, it’s important, regardless of your age or fitness level. Regular stretching improves posture, balance and coordination, relaxes muscles, lowers stress and increases circulation. Even better, it allows muscles recover from exercise, decreasing those discomforts that can arrive a day or two later! Stretching a few minutes prior to exercise, and a bit longer afterward, is best. It’s even a great way to jump-start your morning. Remember to listen to your body and don’t stretch through pain.

4) Choose the right shoes
Buying a new pair of sneakers can feel like a daunting task. There are many more options now than there were years ago. When buying a new pair of sneakers, think of which activities you do the most and buy a sneaker specifically designed for that activity. One of the best ways to avoid injury is to have a new pair of sneakers. If you are noticing shin splits, muscle fatigue or joint pain, it might be time for new sneakers. It’s vital to have sneakers with enough cushion and shock support to avoid injury.
Save on athletic footwear – Through Harvard Pilgrim’s Your Member Savings program, members can save 15% at Marathon Sports on athletic footwear from Adidas, Asics, Brooks, New Balance, Mizuno, Nike and Saucony.

5) Stay Hydrated
Make sure to drink “plain” water before, during and after any exercise.
Keep in mind that caffeinated drinks tend to make you dehydrated, so stick to plain waterwhile exercising and carry it with you. A good rule of thumb is one glass of water per 20minutes of activity. And to liven it up, spice it up! Add lemon, lime or cucumber to yourwater for natural flavoring.

Resources to help you keep track of your steps

  • Starting in April, you can pick up a free pedometer in our Benefits department (second floor of 85 E. Concord St.) – first come, first served.
  • If you’re a Harvard Pilgrim member, don’t forget to track your progress in your passport or online by using the My Health Assistant “Exercise” module. Log in to your HPHConnect account to get started.
  • Walking tour maps of Boston – Each self-guided walk has a detailed route as well as distances and descriptions of sights and scenes. Included is BMC/BUMC neighborhood tour map.