When it comes to parking the family vehicle, there are two types of Dads.
Dad 1 circles the lot for as long as it takes to find the closest possible spot. “It takes what it takes!” is his battle cry.
Dad 2 does the opposite: Having endured more than his share of parking frustration, he pulls into the first available spot. If the lot is busy, that spot can be surprisingly far from the destination. We’re not talking different-time-zone far, but it can feel that way sometimes!
The good news for Dad 2s (and their eye-rolling passengers) is that those extra steps across the asphalt do wonders for their physical and mental health. That’s why our Move for Your Mental Health Campaign is encouraging all men—yes, even all the Dad 1s out there—to go with faraway parking spots this June as an easy (and stress-free) way to work in some extra steps. We’ve all heard of Park ‘n’ Fly and Park ‘n’ Ride…now let’s Park ‘n’ Walk!
Why do extra steps matter?
If you walk five city blocks a day, you can lower your risk of heart attack by 25 percent. Kick that up to an hour a day, 5 days a week, and you cut your risk of stroke in half, according to a Harvard study of more than 11,000 men.
At the same time, research shows that physical activity like walking is key to keeping your weight within healthy limits and your mind sharp and healthy.
How many steps are enough?
We often hear that 10,000 steps are a healthy amount of daily walking. As it turns out, research shows that 7,000-8,000 steps may be closer to the sweet spot. With most people averaging around 5,000 steps doing everyday activities like commuting and yard work, you could be just a parking lot trot away from hitting that target.
More easy ways to increase daily steps
Go for walking meetings
If your work phone is of the cellular variety, there’s little stopping you from taking calls while hoofing it. Plus, it makes you look even busier and more productive than you already are. Two birds, one phone! For face-to-face meetings, there’s also little stopping you from inviting your co-workers along for a stroll. You’ll all get some easy exercise while getting the job done. Now that’s the kind of multi-tasking Move for Your Mental Health is all about!
Walk at lunch or on break
You’ve parked further away from the office than usual. If it was a cheaper lot, well played! Now, go three for three by strolling from work to the local coffee shop or to a nearby park for lunch.
Make your dog love you EVEN MORE
Man’s best friend gets so fired up about walks that dog owners often have to spell out the word. As in, “Hey, are you taking Rover for W-A-L-K-I-E-S?” No matter what, dogs go nuts when walkies are mentioned.
As for humans, a recent study shows that dog owners are about four times more likely than other people to walk for at least 150 minutes each week. In fact, the dog owners in the study spent nearly 300 minutes each week walking with their dogs, which was about 200 more minutes of walking than people without dogs.
Walk your kids to school
Trading the minivan for walking shoes sets a good example for the brood, does them some good as well, and gives you all some extra time together.
Use the stairs instead of the elevator
Hoofing it up stairs burns a third more calories than regular walking, and there’s no awkward waiting with strangers in a tiny windowless room.
Finish your commute on foot
Hop off the bus a couple stops early to work in some easy extra steps and get the blood flowing before or after work.
Get some fresh air after dinner
Research has found that walking after dinner is particularly beneficial, as it can help lower your blood sugar, speed up digestion, and aid in fat loss. Plus, you’ll get some fresh air, which helps to lower stress levels after a long day.
Warm up at the game
Put the minutes before your kids’ soccer matches or hockey games to good use by going for a walk with whoever is joining you on the sidelines. Every good cheer squad needs a warm-up of their own, after all.
Turn your phone into a step counter
Challenge yourself by using a free step-counting smartphone app to complete a pre-set number of steps each day, setting new targets when you’re ready. No need for a fancy smartwatch! Many phones have these apps pre-installed—click the following links to learn how to set up Google Fit for Android and Apple Health for iOS devices to use them as step counters—with choice add-on apps, including MapMyWalk and Walkmeter.
Note to all new and existing Dad 2s out there: While checking your steps on your smartphone, feel free to snap a quick photo or video showing how far away you parked from your destination. If you need to zoom in to show it clearly, ALL THE BETTER! Share it on social media using #ParkLikeADad, and tag @menshealthfdn for the chance to have it re-shared.
Now, let’s join Canadian Men’s Health Foundation Champions like Dan Murphy, Tommy Europe, Toby Hargrave, and others in finding the worst possible parking spots at stores across Canada.
Let’s hear your ideas for getting more steps in the comments below, guys!