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Walking for Exercise

Staying physically active (and eating a healthful diet) can help promote optimal health. For cancer patients, moderate amounts of physical activity seem to help reduce the fatigue from chemotherapy and radiation, perhaps by boosting mood.

Believe it or not, exercise gives chemo patients more energy Click To Tweet

Walking is one of the most popular physical activities in America, and for a good reason—it’s safe, cheap, practical, and familiar.

Put some pep in your step and transform your leisurely stroll into a health-promoting physical activity. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular brisk walking may help you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Prevent or manage various chronic conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • Strengthen the bones
  • Lift the mood
  • Improve balance and coordination

Survivors of some types of cancers have higher rates of heart disease and osteoporosis, and regular exercises like brisk walking can help cut those risks.

Walking can cut your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis Click To Tweet

Track it

a small electronic pedometer to keep in your pocketThe faster, farther, and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits — within limits. Tracking your walking progress can help you gauge how much and how intensely you walk, and can inspire you to keep moving. Keep a record of how many steps you take, the distance you walk and how long it takes to see how much you have improved since you started!

There are many pedometers apps on the market that can help you calculate your steps and distance. My favorite iPhone app is pedometer++ and pacer is a good pedometer for Android. Some pedometers are more accurate than others, so your mileage may vary. Most pedometer apps are free, so it’s easy to switch.

If you don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to waste your battery, there are lots of traditional pedometers on the market. Most of these, like the Omron, are inexpensive, easy to use, and small enough to fit in your pocket. Check with your local hospital or cancer treatment center, as some of the facilities provide free pedometers to patients upon request.

If you’re looking to track more than just your steps, you can try wearable devices like the Jawbone, FitBit, or Apple Watch.

Portorose, Slovenia - July 4, 2014: Two men prepare for outdoor sports wearing Fitbit Flex activity tracking wristbands. Activity trackers are designed to help the wearer achieve a more active and healthy lifestyle.On staying motivated

Create small achievable goals like going for a 10-minute walk during your lunch break at work or after dinnertime. Once your initial goal becomes a habit, set a new (but still realistic) goal, such as increasing the walk to 20 minutes or increasing your walking pace.

Try these tips to make walking enjoyable and active:

  • If you walk outdoors, plan several different routes to keep you entertained and interested in your walk. If you are walking alone, be sure to tell someone which route you are taking.
  • Ask a friend or neighbor to join you on your walk. Or, sign up to walk for a cause of your choice and hit the streets with a group of like-minded walkers.
  • Take the stairs. Even at a slow pace, you’ll burn calories two to three times faster climbing stairs than walking briskly on the level.

If you find yourself skipping your daily walks, do not give up. Take a short break if you need. Remind yourself how good you feel when you include physical activity in your daily routine—and then get back on track.

Be sure to speak with your physician and health care team before starting any new exercise regimen or making changes to your current routine.


Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health. Mayo Clinic website. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20046261 April 18, 2013. Accessed October 22, 2014.

Giving cancer its walking papers. Harvard Health Letter. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/giving-cancer-its-walking-papers.htm Published November 2006. Accessed December 2014.

Walking: Your steps to health. Harvard Men’s Health Watch. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mens_Health_Watch/2009/August/Walking-Your-steps-to-health Published August 2009. Accessed December 2014.

Image: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20432121,00.html

Stephanie Forsythe MS, RDN, CNSC, CDN

Stephanie Forsythe MS, RDN, CNSC, CDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who works as a Clinical Dietitian and Nutrition Coordinator at a hospital in Brooklyn. She helps patients meet their nutritional needs during their stay in the intensive care units. Aside from developing recipe and blog content for Savor Health, Stephanie also has worked as pastry cook in California and New York City. Stephanie received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley and her Master of Science in Nutrition Education from Teachers College Columbia University. She completed a Dietetic Internship and training through Teachers College.

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