The overall health and well-being of the American population is at an all-time low. In fact, according to a study published in ‘Mayo Clinic Proceedings,’ less than 3% of Americans today will actually meet the basic qualifications for a ‘healthy lifestyle.’ The researchers in this study used 4 specific criteria to assess a healthy lifestyle, focusing on a nutritional diet, adequate physical activity, a healthy body fat percentage and a non-smoking lifestyle.

While we may not all be living our healthiest lifestyle today, there are steps that we can take each day to improve upon this. One area that many Americans need to improve upon, but often see as overwhelming, is our level of physical fitness. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that the average American adult should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

For those that may find these levels to be significantly higher than their usual routine, the important thing to note is that you do not have to make this change overnight. Instead, each step that you take towards improving your physical activity is a positive one. Simply parking further away at the grocery store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help to move you forward in a positive direction.

One exercise that is often overlooked and underestimated is the simple act of walking. This is one activity that is easy to adjust to any fitness level and requires no additional equipment, however, it has been associated with a number of great benefits including an improved mood, a decreased risk of diabetes, strengthened bones and muscles, and improved balance and coordination.

In an effort to assist those interested in making a positive change in their lives, Tracey Pearson, from the website Better Me, published a 21-day walking plan. Starting off easy, this plan allows anyone to improve their physical fitness, slowly adding intensity as you work through each of the days. If you’re looking to improve your health, this is a great place to start!

21-Day Walking Plan

Easy: A casual stroll, easy and comfortable

Moderate: A faster pace than easy, yet you are still able to carry on a conversation

Fast: Heart rate is quickened, talking is difficult as you attempt to catch your breath

Week 1: Starting Out Easy

Day 1: 10 minutes, easy and steady pace.

Day 2: 12 minutes, easy and steady pace.

Day 3: 15 minutes, easy and steady pace.

Day 4: 18 minutes, easy and steady pace. At this stage, it may be easier to divide this time with 9 minutes in the morning and 9 minutes at night.

Day 5: 20 minutes, easy and steady pace – 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night.

Day 6: 22 minutes, easy and steady pace – 11 minutes in the morning and 11 minutes at night.

Day 7: 25 minutes, easy and steady pace – 13 minutes in the morning and 12 minutes at night.

Week 2: Increase Intensity, Adding Moderate and Fast Pace

Day 8: 14 minutes – 2 minutes easy, 10 minutes fast, 2 minutes easy.

Day 9: 16 minutes, moderate pace.

Day 10: 18 minutes – 3 minutes easy, 12 minutes fast, 3 minutes easy.

Day 11: 20 minutes, moderate pace.

Day 12: 22 minutes – 4 minutes easy, 14 minutes fast, 4 minutes easy.

Day 13: 24 minutes, moderate pace.

Day 14: 26 minutes – 5 minutes easy, 16 minutes fast, 5 minutes easy.

Week 3: Add Some Elevation

Day 15: 15 minutes, up/down the stairs or on a path with an increasing elevation, followed by 2 minutes easy pace, flat ground to cool off.

Day 16: 25 minutes, moderate pace.

Day 17: 17 minutes, up/down the stairs or on a path with an increasing elevation, followed by 2 minutes fast paced.

Day 18: 27 minutes, moderate pace.

Day 19: 17 minutes, up/down the stairs on a path with an increasing elevation, followed by 3 minutes easy pace, flat ground to cool off.

Day 20: 30 minutes, moderate pace.

Day 21: 25 minutes, fast pace, followed by 8 minutes, easy pace.

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