The beauty of walking is that it can be done by people of any fitness level or age – it’s simple and low-impact. You can also walk almost anywhere to reap its many health benefits. A daily walk can strengthen bones, help control weight, improve your cardiovascular fitness, balance, etc. All you really need is a pair of walking shoes and a simple plan to get moving.
Any fitness routine can be challenging to maintain. It’s tough squeezing exercise into a daily schedule filled with work, family, housekeeping, and other commitments. At times, it can feel like it’s impossible. That’s one reason why the classic “lunch walk” is an easy exercise that can be added to your workday schedule. But even though your lunch break seems like the ideal time for enjoying your stroll, you need to be strategic about sun protection.
Adapting Your Lunch Break
While the lunch hour is a convenient time to walk, it’s also when the sun is the most intense and dangerous. Lots of skin damage can accumulate from all the brief minutes of unprotected sun exposure. This can cause skin wrinkling, flaring of autoimmune disorder symptoms, melanoma, and other skin cancers. So it’s critical to protect your skin with sunscreen every day of the year, sun or clouds.
If your workday is flexible, rearrange your schedule to eat while working through your lunchtime. Then use your break for a mid-morning or late afternoon walk instead. Be sure to block out your walk time on your calendar to maintain your exercise habit. If you can’t get a full 30 minutes to walk, breaking your exercise down into 10 or 15 minute chunks will still provide health benefits.
Other Walking Options
There are some creative alternatives for a sun-safe walk. The indoor options are great choices for bad weather days as well:
- Indoor mall
- Heavily shaded walking path
- Treadmill at a nearby gym or in your home
- Free admission museum
- Big box or large grocery store
- Indoor track
- Hallways and stairs in your office building
If your midday lunchtime isn’t flexible or you still yearn for the outdoors, choose a shady route where you will have minimal sun exposure. Pick the shady side of the street if you walk downtown. In addition, have your sun essentials ready to go. This includes a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF+ that you apply to all sun-exposed skin. Don’t forget your neck and under your chin which can get burned from the sun’s reflection. Be sure to apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside so it has time to absorb into your skin. Wear a cover-up that protects your arms and legs and a wide brim hat that you can hang on a peg in your workspace. Consider purchasing a UV Skinz UPF 50+ certified hat and cover-up. Lastly, have a pair of 100% UVA/UVB wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Next, decide if you want to walk with others or simply walk solo. If you’re worried about slacking off, enlist a walking buddy or a few colleagues to keep you motivated.
Working from Home
If you work from home, try an early or late day stroll with a neighbor for added social fun. If walking alone, take your phone and your dog (if you have one) to share the health benefits and for safety. When the weather is too harsh or your lunch break is strictly at noon, a treadmill is a great piece of equipment to own. You simply hop on, adjust the settings and get walking. Try streaming a nature video for a tranquil refresh. Leave the outdoor walk for early morning or after 4 pm when the sun is less fierce.
Your best healthy walking strategy is the one that motivates you to keep doing it consistently. Keep your walks fun and fresh by mixing up your walking routine. Try mapping out different locations and walking paths or walking with different people. And whether you walk at a brisk pace or a leisurely stroll, you will reap the benefits of improved fitness.