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After committing to a consistent walking routine, Al Roker has noticed an increase in his walking speed. The host has long been an avid walker — and an enthusiastic participant in the Start TODAY 30-day walking plan that launched on June 1.
“I did 4 miles this morning … and I did my best time. Four miles in under an hour. And it’s been three weeks since we started the Start TODAY (plan),” he said on the show this morning.
Being able to walk faster is a sign that your commitment to a walking plan — or any fitness routine — is paying off.
“After a couple of weeks of walking, your cardiovascular system adjusts. Your body pumps more blood faster and in larger quantities to the rest of your body, making it easier for your body,” said personal trainer and creator of the walking plan, Stephanie Mansour. “Since walking is the same movement, your body adapts to this and the muscles learn the correct motions and movements, your brain understands how to move, and your body as a whole moves more in sync after practice. Think about a baby learning how to crawl: At first they crawl slowly, but then speed up. Same thing when a toddler learns how to walk. The muscle memory gets built and the body adjusts over time to be able to go faster.”
The plan also incorporates interval training into the walks, which helps increase cardiovascular fitness, too. “We speed it up and really get out of breath, making the cardiovascular system work in overdrive for a few minutes, and then we slow it down giving it time to recover. Then we speed it up again, taxing it, just to slow it down again,” said Mansour. “By adding intervals into your walks, you’re helping to increase your endurance and stamina! All of this compounds to make you be able to walk faster with more ease. You’re in better cardio shape and your body doesn’t get out of breath as easily, so it’s easier to go faster.”
Why the scale isn’t the best measure of health success
After a few weeks of committing to a fitness routine like the walking plan, you can expect to start noticing other positive changes as well. But when it comes to signs that exercise is paying off, Mansour says to look beyond the scale.
“I always say that the scale can be your inaccurate worst enemy! It does not always reflect the effort you’re putting in or how your body is responding to exercise,” she said. “Exercise has a plethora of other benefits. Take a look at these three areas to have a more holistic approach to your health and to stop grading yourself on the scale: healthy eating, better sleep and reduced stress.”
Signs that your fitness routine is working (other than weight loss)
Mansour encourages you to use these markers as proof that your fitness routine is making a difference and improving your health:
- Increased energy
- Better sleep and waking up feeling more rested
- Better mood
- Improved ability to focus
- A desire to eat healthier
- Drinking more water
- Less aches, pains and stiffness
- Getting up and down from the couch with more ease
- Being able to do household chores with fewer aches and pains
- Breathing easier while exercising and while doing everyday tasks
- Less snoring at night (if you snore)
- Clothes fitting better (or looser!)
At the end of the day, everyone’s body responds differently to exercise and you will hit milestones in your own time.
“There are people in our Start TODAY group that have lost 10 pounds so far this month, others have lost zero pounds. That’s why non-scale victories are hugely important, especially when you’re starting to exercise,” said Mansour. “I’ve seen people post that they’ve not lost weight, but they are sleeping better, feel more energized, are making healthier food choices, feel like they’re in a better mood, have less aches and pains … this is huge!” Mansour said in a recent Facebook live. “If you are noticing a reduction in pain and you're more mobile, that is a sign that you’re on the right track. Even if the scale isn’t moving — that’s OK. It will come. The fact that you’re (reducing) inflammation and pain is what we’re going for. That’s step one.”