By Mary Jo DiLonardo
I live in the sprawling suburbs of Atlanta, where cars are our lifeblood. We drive them to work, to the gym, to the bus stop and sometimesto the mailbox. Sidewalks are fairly rare, while gas stations are incredibly plentiful.
Is the same true for where you live? That's no reason to avoid hoofing it. Even if you're a "mailbox driver," you can learn to give your car a break -- and your feet a workout.
Check out these common excuses -- and see what the experts say about them:
But... I don’t have the time to walk. Sure, it's faster to jump in your car and drive away. But you need exercise if you want to be healthy, and walking is an easy (and not terribly sweaty) way to get it. "The number-one reason people don’t do physical activity [is] because of their perception of how much time they have," says exercise physiologist Jacque Ratliff, MS, CPT, an education specialist for the American Council on Exercise. "It really just takes a little bit of planning or a little bit of rearranging to get just 10 minutes of walking in. I guarantee you that there's 10 minutes in there somewhere."
But... I can't run errands on foot, because there are no stores close by and I can't carry everything. "Drive and park in a manner that still lets you walk quite a bit," suggests Denver physical therapist Eric Robertson, PT, DPT, OCS, a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. Also, don't just assume nothing's close. Try entering your zip code at a website like WalkScore.com, which tracks the walkability of neighborhoods across the country. You might be surprised by what you find out.
But... I don’t have anyone to walk with. Ask a friend to walk with you. Or borrow a dog. Or check out community message boards and find a new walking buddy or group. Or, download some new music or an audio book and go it solo. That way, you can go at your own pace...
But... there’s nowhere to just walk. Don't have sidewalks? Live in a rural area? "Coordinate walking with things you already do," suggests strength and conditioning specialist Cheryl Richardson, MS, CSCS, of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. Take a short walk while your kid's at soccer practice, or while your oil's getting changed. At the grocery store, go up and down every single aisle. Drive to the mall, park the car and walk from store to store instead of driving back and forth.
But... I need my car! We're not telling you to ditch your car forever. Just set small goals. Maybe you and your kid can walk to the bus stop a few times a week, instead of driving. Maybe you and some coworkers can walk to lunch. An added benefit of walking to a restaurant? "You'll be less likely to overeat when you get there," says Robertson. "When you're exercising, your body is a little bit 'on.' And when you're stimulated like that, you tend not to have as much of an appetite."