Walking and taking more steps is a win, even if you have an injury or difficulty walking long distances. If you have physical limitations, you might find it a bit overwhelming at first to get those steps in each day. Don’t worry, you can still get more active! You can get more active by taking shorter walks, taking breaks, and easing into physical activity. Here’s how!
If you’re just starting an exercise routine, or especially if you’ve suffered an injury or health problems, make sure to talk to your doctor first. Your doctor can help determine how much you can walk, and can help you identify warning signs that you’re overdoing it. Make sure to be safe and prevent further injury by talking to an expert.
Set Realistic Goals
If you’re coming back from an injury, it’s important to be realistic in your goals. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and getting back to your previous fitness levels won’t happen in 1 day either! If you’re used to walking 10,000 steps a day before your injury, it’s almost certain that you won’t be able to do 10,000 on your first day back. That’s fine! If you try to meet or beat your old goals, you’re likely to be disappointed (which can hurt your motivation to walk) or risk re-injuring yourself (the worst possible outcome)! Take it slow, and gradually increase your steps.
Once you’re ready, set yourself up for success by starting with a small, achievable goal. Can you walk 300 steps at a time? 500? Maybe 1,000? That’s where you should start. You don’t need to push yourself to 10,000 steps a day, or to take 5,000 steps in one go. See how many steps you get naturally, and then try adding something like 500 steps to your usual daily step count. If that’s no problem, add another 500!
Where to walk?
If you have a physical limitation or you’re coming back from injury, it’s best to take short walks with frequent breaks so you can catch your breath and evaluate how you’re feeling. When you’re choosing a location to walk, look for a few important factors:
- Places to sit down or rest – When you’re feeling good, taking short rests allows you to stay active longer and get more steps than you could if you had to walk continually. If you get tired unexpectedly or start to feel pain, this allows you cut short your walk and take an extended break.
- An easy way to cut your walk short – Avoid walks where you may get stuck away from home with no easy way to get back. If you live in a rural or suburban area, a block or two can be a long way. If you get tired, you may have no easy way to get back. Consider driving to a place where you can walk more easily but can drive home when you’re tired.
- Walk where there are people – In case you become too tired or aggravate your injury, you’ll want to be in an area where you can help if necessary. Walking by yourself in a secluded park or nature trail is a bad idea, as you may be unable to call for help. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
- Have a backup plan – Make sure you have alternative transportation plans in case you find yourself unable to drive or take public transport home. You’ll want the ability to call a ride-sharing service, taxi or friend you find yourself too exhausted to drive, or if you aggravate your injury.
Try these locations!
- Shopping Malls – Most shopping malls have benches or a food court with tables and chairs. Plan a loop that includes a stop to catch your breath before moving on and keep things interesting with a little window shopping as you go. Malls are a great choice because there are many things to keep you interested without having to walk long distances in one go.
- Parks – Check out local parks to see what amenities they have. Picnic tables are a great spot to take a rest after a few minutes of walking. Some parks have walkways or trails with benches located along the way, too, and getting outside in some green space can feel invigorating. Make sure you can get to and from the park easily, even if you tire yourself out. Make sure the park isn’t too secluded in case anything happens and you need help.
- Grocery Stores – The big benefit to doing your walking here is that you can choose to push a cart if you need a little extra stability. You can also kill two birds with one stone with this one by getting your shopping done while you walk. Many supermarkets have seats in the pharmacy section where you can take a break if necessary.
- House Walking – Yes, house walking is a thing! You can walk around right in your own home and take a break anytime you need to. Just making an effort to take a few laps around your house each day can help you easily add extra steps.
- Airports or Train Stations – If you travel frequently, use the time you spend in the airport to your advantage. There are plenty of places to sit for a moment or two between walks from gate to gate or between terminals, just allow yourself enough time so you don’t miss your flight.
When you’re coming back from an injury or health problem, just getting active and staying active is a win. Make sure you start slowly, take frequent breaks and stop as soon as you feel tired or sore. Give it time, and you’ll work your way back to where you were before your injury. Whether you are recovering from an injury or are just trying to find a place to start, remember that every step adds-up, and each one you take moves you in a healthier, stronger direction.