By Meagan McGone
Recently, on a sunny Sunday morning, I set out on a walk around Brevard.
I ate lunch at a great waterfront restaurant and made a well-deserved ice cream pit stop along the way. I noticed businesses that I had never seen before, even though I had passed them in my car many times, and I snuck some up-close views at beautiful houses that are normally just blurs as I drive by.
But best of all - even better than the nearly 1,700 calories I burned during my 17-mile journey - was the fantastic time I had each step of the way.
However, you don't have to spend an entire day on foot to reap the benefits of the wonderful exercise of walking.
According to AARP, research has shown that incorporating just 30 minutes of walking into your daily routine can provide a variety of benefits. Walking cuts your risk of heart disease, helps protect your brain from memory loss and reduces your chances of developing diabetes.
For most, it's a doable, low-maintenance exercise that can be squeezed in anywhere and at any time in the day.
For me, it's one of my favorite forms of fitness, especially during the fall in Florida. When I'm feeling stressed, sad or lethargic, I go outside and place one foot in front of the other until those feelings fade away. In addition to its therapeutic benefits, walking is a great way to spend quality time with families or loved ones.
And as a bonus, you can burn about 100 calories by walking one mile. Obviously, this number fluctuates depending on a variety of factors, including the physical condition of the walker, the speed and intensity of the walk, the terrain of the path and so on.
All-in-all, walking is safe, free and accessible to almost everybody, making it a stellar form of exercise.
Here are a few tips, with some advice from AARP, for beginning walkers of all ages:
. Start slow and steady. Take your first walks five to 10 minutes at a time, and then increase the length of time after two weeks.
. Warm up with five minutes of slow walking, and then pick up the pace to a brisk walk. To cool down, walk slowly for five minutes again before heading indoors.
. Break up your walks into attainable portions. If your goal is to walk for 30 minutes every day, walk for 10 minutes three times per day. Sneak in a walk during your lunch break or take a 10-minute stroll after each meal.
. Use walking as a time to multitask. Catch up with an old friend on the phone, while walking around the neighborhood or take the kids to the zoo instead of the movies. Remember that the dog can benefit from walking, too.
. Keep track of your efforts. Seeing your progress on paper will help you to stay motivated. Investing in a pedometer can help you keep track of your activity. According to AARP, taking 5,000 steps or fewer daily is considered sedentary. Work your way up to 10,000 steps, which is considered active.
. Walk with a buddy. The main reason my walk around town was so enjoyable is that I had a friend to share the experience with. When you're walking and talking, the journey is that much better.