Ever since I took up running in my early teens, I have always considered myself a runner. Never a particularly fast runner, but an every-other-day distance runner.
I made a habit out of running all through high school and college, and even ran a marathon (my one and only) as I finished out my first year in medical school.
Dr. Laura Jana is an Omaha-based pediatrician and proud mom of three. She is the co-author of two parenting books and founder of Practical Parenting Consulting. She is a media spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and owner of Primrose School of Legacy in Omaha. She blogs monthly. Read more from Dr. Jana.
And then life's demands really set in. With a husband, three kids and a demanding job, my running went by the wayside altogether.
One of the disadvantages of having been a former distance runner is that it took me many years before I was able to convince myself that anything short of a five-mile run counted as real exercise.
I've found that people contemplating exercise for the first time share this impression, making it a misconception that gets in the way of being active. And it's clear that getting active is something we all could do more of.
According to America's Health Rankings, nearly a quarter of Nebraskans over the age of 18 reportedly do no physical activity or exercise other than in the course of their job.
According to epidemiologist and Harvard medical professor I-Min Lee, inactivity “has an impact on health comparable to smoking.”
If sitting and our tendency toward physical inactivity really is the new smoking, then the good news is there's a powerful, easy to administer and entirely free antidote: walking.
Walking has the lowest dropout rate of just about any physical activity. So it's time we all commit to walk more.
Here are some convenient and motivating ways you can add more steps to your family's day:
Walk and talk.
Just like regular exercise, finding time to connect with friends is clearly an important aspect of your well-being, too. Instead of getting together for food and drinks, why not plan to take a walk and talk instead? If your days are filled with meetings, consider having meetings while walking rather than sitting.
Make walking a club sport.
Many area elementary schools have adopted walking clubs, in which children can come to school early and walk a mile or more with the peers, teachers and parents. If your child's elementary school doesn't have one, consider volunteering to help get one off the ground!
Walk where you're going.
Consider having your child walk to and from school more often. And while you're at it, consider other daily activities where you might be able to walk rather than drive. The grocery store? The post office? Take a look around your neighborhood and you'll be sure to find places within walking distance. Or simply add an evening walk around the block to your daily routine.
Measure your progress.
Pedometers and other fitness tracking devices abound, and for good reason. For many of us, simply being able to see how many steps we have (or haven't) taken in a day is enough to motivate us to get up and moving.
Watch while you're walking.
Can't find time to walk? Consider taking a look at your TV viewing schedule and commit yourself to walking on a treadmill while you watch your favorite weekly shows.
Walk the walk.
Remember that as parents, we have a responsibility to set a good example for our children – which includes both talking the talk and walking the walk. After all, if we get it right, they are very likely to follow in our 10,000-plus footsteps each day!