Maybe you have every intention of getting more physical activity, but it just doesn’t seem to work with your schedule or your life. It could be that it’s not safe to walk on the busy roads where you live. Perhaps you have health issues that make it hard for you to go to a gym or exercise outside. Or, between work, chores and caring for your family, you simply don’t have 30 minutes free to fit in a workout.
Walking or exercising in place is a simple, convenient and accessible option that can help just about anyone stay active. You don’t need any special equipment except a good pair of shoes. You don’t have to worry about weather or traffic, and if you don’t have much time, you can squeeze in short “exercise snacks” throughout your day
“Walking in place is a great alternative to going for a traditional walk. Some people may be limited due to weather, surgical precautions or risk of falling. Walking in place is a great way to continue to stay strong and healthy despite these limitations,” said Christopher Bruscato, a physical therapist and athletic trainer with Banner Health
Why walking in place is good for you
Physical activity is good for your overall well-being, no matter where it happens. Walking in place gets your heart pumping, so it improves your cardiovascular health while it builds strength in your legs and lowers your risk of falling. Regular movement can also help you maintain a healthy weight, even if you never set foot outdoors. Walking in place is an excellent low-impact option as it’s gentle on your joints.
How to get started
You don’t need to free up a block of time for physical activity when you’re walking or exercising in place. You just need to identify moments where you can fit a little movement into your daily routine.
A lot of people find that walking in place while talking on the phone or watching TV can make a difference. You can even get in a few steps when you’re folding laundry or preparing meals. Keep in mind that these short bursts of activity can add up over days and weeks.
Of course, you should always talk to a health care provider before you start a new exercise routine to make sure it’s safe and suitable. That’s especially important if you have any pre-existing health conditions.
If your body isn’t used to getting much physical activity, Bruscato recommends starting with one minute of walking and one minute of rest for 10 minutes. Every week, add one more minute of walking, but keep the rest break steady at one minute.
You may want to use a pedometer, app or smartwatch to track your steps and set goals — seeing your progress can be rewarding and can motivate you to keep going.
There’s no need to push yourself too hard. If you have balance issues, you can walk in place with one hand resting on the back of a chair for support. And you can start at a comfortable pace and move more quickly when your stamina improves.
Additions to your indoor walking workout
If you find yourself bored with your indoor walking routine, you can get creative. There’s no rule that says walking is all you can do.
Try adding arm exercises, marching in place or dancing to make your activity more enjoyable. You can also follow online videos that guide you through different routines.
Adding stretching and resistance exercises can round out your indoor walking routine. Bruscato recommends:
- Sit to stands. Sit in a sturdy chair and stand up, ideally without using your arms. Sit back down, then repeat. Work up to three sets of 10.
- Side stepping. Instead of stepping front to back, step side to side. Use the back of a chair for balance if you need to. Like with walking, start with one minute of side stepping and one minute of rest for 10 minutes.
- Single leg balance. Balance on one leg, then the other. Hold onto the back of a chair if you need to. Try to balance three times on each leg for 30 seconds each time. Over time, you should be able to balance for longer periods and without the chair.
You can also add some outdoor walking to your routine when it makes sense. “Walking outdoors gives you other benefits, such as sunlight and walking up and down hills for increased difficulty,” Bruscato said. “But when that’s not an option, walking in place is a great alternative. And some physical activity is always better than none.”
The bottom line
If issues with your health, safety or free time are making it challenging for you to exercise, try walking in place. It has some solid benefits, such as improving your heart health, leg strength and balance. Walking in place may also help you maintain a healthy weight. Even just short bursts of activity can add up and make a difference.
If you’re starting a new exercise routine, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s suitable. Reach out to Banner Health to connect with a health care provider who can recommend a physical activity program that’s right for you.