Celeb Trainer Harley Pasternak: How to Walk Your Way to Better Health

04/29/2016 at 11:03 AM ET

Harley Pasternak

Courtesy Harley Pasternak

Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. His new book 5 Pounds is out now. Tweet him @harleypasternak.

Norway may be a small country, but its leaders think big. Oslo, the country’s capitol, recently announced that it would ban all cars within the city center by 2019. To achieve this goal, city leaders have committed to building 35 more miles of bike lanes and investing heavily in public transportation. Paris has already declared certain heavily-trafficked areas around the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks car-zones. By 2020, Madrid will eliminate car traffic in a 500-acre portion of the city. Is this a trend? Will it come to the United States? I sure hope so.

The effects of the European cities’ bold moves are far reaching, including:

A Smaller Carbon Footprint … 

  • Reduced carbon monoxide emissions
  • Greater safety for pedestrians and cyclists
  • More space for sidewalks, parks and other public places
  • Fewer wasted hours stuck in traffic jams
  • Less stress, noise, and frustration

RELATED: Harley Pasternak Debunks the Myths Behind ‘Healthy’ Foods

… And Slimmer Bodies

In addition to the important social and environmental benefits that come with a reduced reliance on our cars and more use of our legs, there’s a huge personal benefit. People who regularly walk or cycle tend to be slimmer and healthier than those who don’t. On average, Americans take only 5,117 steps per day. At this point, Americans simply don’t measure up. Only 3 percent of Japanese adults are obese, and they walk almost 8,000 steps a day on average.

  • Only 8 percent of Swiss adults are obese, and they tally close to 10,000 steps on average daily, as do Australians. That’s twice the American average.
  • Integral to my fitness and weight control plan is taking a minimum of 10,000 steps a day. This number is considered the minimum for healthy adults to be classified as “highly active.”
  • But the sad truth is that the average American adult takes only about 5,000 steps a day — women tend to do less and men more — and almost 35 percent of us are obese — not just overweight.

RELATED: What Treats Are Okay to Enjoy in Small Amounts? Click Here to Find Out

How many steps do you take a day?

The More Miles You Drive, the Fewer Miles You Walk

There’s no question that the suburban lifestyle has dramatically changed how we get from point A to point B. When people live either in cities or small towns, walking or cycling — what is called “active transportation” — is a perfectly natural way to get to work, stores or school. But in the ‘burbs, the closest strip mall or local school may be miles away along roads without sidewalks. In 1969, about half of American kids walked to school; today, it is closer to 13 percent. The increase in childhood obesity has roughly paralleled this shift.

Fortunately, we do seem to be waking up the importance of “walkability.” It’s an important part of the smart growth movement, which champions human-scale development. Some forward-thinking suburban communities are realizing that closing off streets and encouraging outdoor café seating is good for business as well as citizens’ health. New York and other cities have also instituted community bike-sharing programs.

RELATED: Get Ready For the Beach With Harley’s 9-Week Workout

Fitbit and Beyond

The digital revolution has tethered people to their smart phones. I’ll bet you know at least one person who has injured him or herself while simultaneously walking and texting. But the upside is that the digital age has also produced electronic activity monitors such as the Fitbit, which track your steps and act as a personal challenge to ramp up your activity level. There are also numerous websites and apps that will help you get a move on in your neighborhood or around the world. For starters:

  • The name says it all. The Walking Site is information central on all things related to walking from finding a walking club to purchasing good walking shoes, training for marathon walking and more.
  • Check out the Walk Score of your town, neighborhood, or workplace and download the app for either IOS or Android. Simply enter your address (or a place you are visiting) and you’ll see how it rates on a scale of 1 to 100 in terms of walk score, bike score, and public transit score. Walk Score ranks the top cities in the USA, Canada and Australia annually. (Remember, those Aussies are big walkers and their aboriginal tribes invented the walkabout!) Spoiler alert! New York City ranks Number 1. The site also helps you finding apartments to rent, houses for sale and restaurants and other points of interest within walking distance of an address.
  • Make tracks with a smart phone app. If you don’t have a Fitbit or equivalent, the Walk Tracker Pro can perform many of the same functions with slightly less accuracy, providing your walking or running speed, time, pace, calories burned, and more. It also includes a map in real time and fast-paced music to give you some extra motivation when power-walking—all for $2.99. If you have an Android phone, you can download the free MapMyWalk app, which provides many of the same functions.
  • Add a little friendly competition. Whether you’re a walker, runner, cyclist or other sports enthusiast, the free Endomondo app makes it fun to compete with friends and family and motivate and inspire each other to meet—and exceed—your fitness goals.
  • Planning a vacation? Check out the many walking and hiking vacations, aka “active travel,” offered by firms such as Country Walkers or Back Roads. Some offer both group guided tours as well as self-guided tours with destinations ranging from California’s wine country to the ancient ruins at Machu Picchu.
  • Explore our national parks on foot. The MapQuest National Parks website provides maps and information on walks and hikes by season for these natural and historical treasures that belong to all Americans and welcome the rest of the world. Download the MapQuest mobile app so you’ll never lose your way when hiking. 

I hope these leads will help you do your personal bit to reduce the size of our collective waistline — and have fun doing it!


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