Michele Stanten by Michele Stanten

Walking doesn’t make the hottest workout lists or yearly trend reports, but all fitness professionals should be talking about it—even to clients who are avid exercisers. Why? Because even a daily gym session may not be enough to protect them from our sedentary culture. Most Americans are sitting more than ever thanks to desk jobs, long commutes, neighborhoods that require them to drive everywhere, online shopping, drive-thrus, TVs and computers. Too much sitting has been associated with 34 chronic diseases or conditions including heart disease, diabetes, back pain and depression. It can also shorten their lifespans.

The easiest solution to this epidemic-level problem is walking. While high-intensity interval training and boot camp classes offer fabulous workouts, they’re not practical when it comes to adding activity throughout your clients’ daily lives. But walking is the perfect solution. Encourage your clients, who don’t have physical jobs, to get up and walk around several times a day, even if it’s for only five to 10 minutes at a time. They’ll be healthier, happier and get even better results from their sessions with you. 

Now is the perfect time to start recommending walking. April 1st is National Walking Day. No joke! The American Heart Association is aiming to get all Americans on their feet for 30 minutes of walking (even in small 10-minute bouts). And hopefully, people will continue.

Here’s how you can use National Walking Day to inspire your clients, introduce yourself to potential clients or build relationships within your community.

Use the hashtag #WalkingDay. Join the national conversation and promote walking to all of your followers.

Kick off a challenge. Use April 1st as the start date for a 30-day challenge to encourage anyone to reduce their sitting time by increasing the number of steps they take throughout the day. It’s a great way to keep your clients moving on days they don’t see you or aren’t in the gym. You could even offer prizes to those who take the most steps or make the greatest improvement. It’s also a program you could offer to employers if you want to expand your business into corporate fitness.

Do a walking workout. Instead of the usual routine, take your client outside for a vigorous walking workout. Have your clients mark a starting point (with chalk, rock, bean bag) and then walk as fast as they can for a set time (20 to 30 seconds, depending on the space you have). When you say stop, they mark their end point. Repeat this as many times as appropriate for your clients, each time having them aim to walk a little farther. No running allowed! Or have them try to beat the clock by timing them as they walk a set distance (25 to 50 meters depending on space). Each time, they should aim to walk faster.

Create community. Walking is a very social form of exercise because it’s easy to talk as you walk. Inviting your clients for a walk can allow them to meet each other and build relationships that can help them stay on track. One of the reasons many people stick to walking routines is because of the people they walk with, and some even make new friends through walking.

Host a bring-a-friend walk. This is an opportunity for your clients to inspire a family member or friend to become more active by sharing a fun, easy-to-do activity with them. It’s also a chance to introduce yourself to potential future clients.

Walk and learn. You can create relationships with local businesses by starting a walk at an athletic footwear or apparel store or a grocery store. Before you walk, give a 10- to 15-minute talk on selecting the right shoes, the latest and greatest gear or quick dinner options. Then head out for a 30-minute stroll. 

Share walking experiences. Have people post photos on your website or Facebook page of their favorite walking path or something interesting that they saw while walking.

Train for an event. Clients who don’t want to run or can’t run can still experience the fun of races. Many events, even full and half marathons, will welcome walkers. You just have to choose ones with time limits that accommodate walkers (at least 45 minutes for a 5K, 1½ hours for a 10K, 3½ hours for a half marathon, and 7 hours for a full marathon. If you have slower walkers, look for events with longer time limits. Start the training on April 1.

Keep it going. You can remind everyone about the importance of walking more by promoting #WalkingWednesdays on social media all year long.

For more information on National Walking Day, visit the American Heart Association’s website.  

To support Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Walking and Walkable Communities, ACE has created a free toolkit designed to help fitness professionals lead safe and effective walking programs, and become advocates for more walkable communities.

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