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  • Walking: The Most Popular Form of Exercise Walking: The Most Popular Form of Exercise 07/03/2018 Follow these tips getting started and learn more about fitness walking

    When it comes to simple ways to be healthy, walking is all the rage. Follow these tips getting started and learn more about fitness walking.

    You can get active in lots of ways, but walking is one of the easiest! For most people, it’s safe, easy to stick with, and low- or no-cost. It doesn’t require any special skills or equipment. For such a simple activity, it has so many benefits.

    For every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy for some people may increase by two hours. Research has shown that walking at least 150 minutes a week can help you:

    • Reduce your risk of serious diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
    • Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels.
    • Increase your energy and stamina.
    • Improve your mental and emotional well-being.
    • Boost bone strength and reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
    • Prevent weight gain.

    If 150 minutes sounds like a lot, remember that even short 10-minute activity sessions can be added up over the week to reach this goal. And it’s easy to fit in 10 minutes of walking a few times a day.

    Walking vs. Running

    Did you know more Americans walk for fitness than run? Maybe you’re not that into running. Or maybe you’ve had an injury and can’t run anymore. Then just walk — every step counts. In fact, walking briskly can help your health as much as running, according to a 2013 research study.

    How To Walk For Fitness

    • Gear up. All you need to get started are comfortable clothes and supportive shoes. Keep your cool by layering clothing, because exercise raises your body’s temperature. Shoes designed for walking or running are best, but not required. Just make sure you have a little wiggle room (about half an inch) between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Avoid cotton socks because they retain moisture and can lead to blisters. (Who knew?!)
    • Easy does it. If you’re out of shape, begin with short distances. Start with a stroll that feels comfortable (perhaps 10-15 minutes) and gradually increase your time or distance. If it’s easier on your body and your schedule, stick with a couple of 10- to 20-minute walks a day instead of one long walk.
    • Focus on form. Keep your head lifted (no texting!), abs engaged and shoulders relaxed. Swing your arms naturally. Avoid carrying heavy items or hand weights because they can put extra stress on your elbows and shoulders – try a backpack instead. Stick to a comfortable, natural stride.
    • Breathe. If you can’t talk or catch your breath while walking, slow down. At first, forget about speed. Just get out there and walk!
    • Pick up the pace. To warm up, walk at an easy pace for the first several minutes. Then gradually increase your speed.
    • Add variety and challenge. Try brisk intervals. For example, walk one block fast, two blocks slow and repeat several times. Over time you’ll be able to add more fast intervals with shorter recovery periods. Walking hills or stairs is a great way to increase muscle tone and burn more calories.
    • Stretch. The end of your walk is a great time to stretch since your body is warmed up. Stretch your hamstrings, calves, chest, shoulders and back. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
    • Track your progress. Fit walking into your schedule whenever you can. That may mean three 10-minute walks a day. When you can fit it in, longer walks will help you improve your stamina. Just remember your overall goal is at least 150 minutes each week.

    Stay Safe While Walking

    • Be alert. Listening to music while you walk can help keep you energized. And making phone calls is a good way to multitask. But if you use headphones, keep the volume low and watch out for traffic that you may not hear. Don’t text or stare at your device while walking, so you can keep your eyes on the road.
    • Stand out. Wear light colors or reflective clothing and carry a flashlight or glow stick (it adds to the fun!) if you walk when visibility is low.
    • Be street smart. Walking on sidewalks is best, but if you have to walk on the street, stick to streets with lower speed limits and make sure drivers can see you.
    • Know the neighborhood. Note which businesses are open when you’ll be walking and the location of emergency telephones. Walk on well-traveled streets rather than taking shortcuts through alleys or parking lots.
    • Stick together. Walk with a partner or in a group. Or bring your dog along -- you’ll both get healthier.
    • Listen to your body. If you have foot, knee, hip or back pain when walking, STOP and check with your doctor to find out the cause. You may need different shoes or another form of activity like cycling or water exercise. But don’t give up! Find the activity that’s right for you.

    Just Walk

    Maybe you haven’t been active for a while. No problem! Just get started. It’s not all or nothing… it’s step by step. Even if you’re already active, here are some easy ways you can add more steps into your day:

    • Grab the leash and take the dog out for a walk.
    • Walk the kids to the park or playground.
    • Forget about rock star parking. Park a bit farther from the entrance to your workplace, school, grocery store, restaurants, etc.
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator, even if just for one or two floors.
    • Walk to a nearby restaurant for lunch or dinner instead of driving.
    • Catch up with a friend by walking around the block while you chat on the phone.

    Learn More:

  • Just Move! One Step at a Time. Just Move! One Step at a Time. Mike Campbell | 05/29/2018 The furthest thing from TheFatGuy's mind was establishing a exercise program, riding a bike, going to the gym, anything that in...

    One question I get from a lot of people is "What exercises did you do when you started, and what was the first thing you did to exercise?"

    Well, when I started my journey, at almost 360 pounds, I did not want to do anything. I had not really been doing anything active, it just was too much to consider. I avoided steps with a passion. I had a bike in the garage that I would not ride because it was too uncomfortable. I felt I had no energy for moving and exercise. I was exhausted all of the time, taking 7 different medications, using a CPAP machine at night, and just plain felt horrible. The furthest thing from TheFatGuy's mind was establishing a exercise program, riding a bike, going to the gym, anything that involved lugging my 360 pound body from point A to point B.

    So what did I do? For the first 6 weeks of my journey to ME, MY journey to fitness, I concentrated on researching my diet and how I could work toward something that would work for me. I concentrated on developing my log and my mental plan. I knew I needed to incorporate exercise into my plan, but I was determined to get my eating on track (under control) and dedicate myself to researching my diet and evaluating me.

    The only thought that was in my head about exercise the first 6 weeks was JUST MOVE! Yep, that is it. I did it in digestible chunks one minute at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time, always moving forward. I did a lot of little things. I walked the dogs which was a huge deal to me. I picked up the dumbbells I had around the house and just did simple routines of no more than 30 minutes. I started walking up and down steps more which was a big deal for someone that avoided one flight of steps. By Day 29 I got on my bike for the first time in years. On Day 30 I walked 12 holes of golf before a blister got the best of me. On Day 34 I walked 1.5 miles at my in-laws house in Pickens on a hilly road. I kept it simple (KISS) and JUST MOVED.

    Day 43 was my first day in a gym. I felt I was comfortable with the progress I had made with my diet and log. I had lost 27 pounds and was ready to challenge myself. I was ready to take those next steps. I figured out the path that worked for me. I knew I needed to start moving more at the beginning and that lead me to the gym and more structure in my exercise.

    So now TheFatGuy that couldn't climb one flight of steps can do 122 straight reps of going up 17 bleachers and down 34 steps. I did it one step at a time!

    Note to YOU and ME: JUST MOVE! Take that first step and then do it one step at a time!

    This post was originally published at FatGuyDiary.com.


  • The Weirdest Workouts Across South Carolina The Weirdest Workouts Across South Carolina Heather Cooper Curtis | 05/29/2018 We're all a little weird, and so are these workouts. You won’t regret giving one of these offbeat sweat sessions in South Carol...


    We’re all a little weird and so are these workouts:

    Maya Movement Arts

    Options range from Dance Trapeze Basics to Dance Trapeze 1 and 2, allowing for level advancement and a continued fitness challenge. Maya Movement Arts students start with basic trapeze entrances and exit, conditioning, transitioning, and balancing on and around the carbon bar. Approval is required by the studio owner, Kelly VanLeeuwen, to progress to the next level where inversions are addressed, endurance is focused on, and technique is refined. The website advises adhering to a strict dress code. Covering the armpits with a t-shirt and the back of knees with capris or pants are recommended. Clothing should be tight or form-fitting as to avoid getting caught or tangled in the apparatus. Layers are a good idea too, helping minimize bruising and scraping.

    Gravitopia Extreme Air Sports

    As the Gravitopia website quotes, “20 minutes of rebounding is equal to 1 hour of running, from a cardiovascular perspective…rebounding burns up to 1,000 calories per hour.” GravityFit is a style workout that puts less impact and strain on the joints.

    Wicked Pole Fitness

    Engage your abs, arms, shoulders, legs, and feet...yep, feet. An intimate, sensual, and empowering workout, pole sculpting mixes tricks and sits for a full-body conditioning workout. Improve flexibility and confidence in a zero-judgment environment. Consider Wicked Cycle-Boxing as the weird-workout runner-up at Wicked Fitness. You may have heard, seen, and/or experienced CycleRow or some variation of cycling and yoga but Cycle-Boxing is a new combination coming soon to the studio.

    Train Coastal Climbing

    With five available plans to pick from (Personal Training, Antagonist Training for climbing, Pull-up Progression, Finger Strength Training, and Endurance Blast), Coastal Climbing provides a workout option for every fitness goal and level. Beginners should take a Quick Class or beginning climbing lesson before purchasing a Train package. Clients can expect to train independently 2-4 times per work for 10-12 weeks with occasional meetings (as needed) led by a qualified instructor. In the words of Miley Cyrus, “There's always gonna be another mountain, I'm always gonna wanna make it move. Always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I'm gonna have to lose. Ain't about how fast I get there, ain't about what's waiting on the other side, it's the climb.”

    Primal Move

    If you live a fairly sedentary lifestyle, sitting for extended periods of time at a desk and/or computer then this is the workout for you. Go back to the basics and relearn how to use your body without unnatural compensation. Think crawling-variations and proper breathing exercises. This class will improve mobility, core strength and posture in a purposeful and playful method. All fitness levels are welcome.

    Whether you go through fitness phases, are a Peloton-aholic, or haven’t found your groove yet, you won’t regret giving one of these offbeat sweat sessions a try.

    Stay strong, stay fit + stay fabulous!

  • Become the Ultimate State Park Outsider Become the Ultimate State Park Outsider Deanna Anderson | 05/16/2018 Learn more about state park events with guided kayak and canoe tours and guided hikes.

    Did you know that South Carolina has 47 state parks? If you love hiking and visit them all, you can become an Ultimate Outsider! Participation in the program is simple. Visit any state park office or website and purchase the Official Guide to South Carolina State Parks for a whopping $2.00.

    The guide provides information on each park, its amenities, and popular activities. It also has space on each page to stamp every time you visit a start park. When all 47 have been stamped, ask a park ranger to verify by signing the form included in the guide, and mail it in. The t-shirt may not seem like a big deal, but the bragging rights are!

    Studies show that spending time outside in the fresh air and sunshine increases metabolism, self-esteem, and vitality while decreasing fatigue, tension, and depression. Sunshine also provides us with essential Vitamin D, which increases bone health and cell growth and boosts immune systems.

    State parks provide opportunities for running, walking, hiking, jogging, and mountain biking. Some offer added challenges such as wind resistance, rugged terrain, and variations of inclines. Visit coastal parks or ones with waterways for kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and stand-up paddle boards. Events are held throughout the year and provide visitors chances to learn how to participate in active competitions.

    Learn more about state park events with guided kayak and canoe tours and guided hikes. As you exercise your way across the state, you will adopt a healthier lifestyle, see a lot of amazing natural and historical sights, and achieved the noble title of Ultimate Outsider!

  • Going for a Walk? Don't Forget your Fitness Tracker! Going for a Walk? Don't Forget your Fitness Tracker! Meg Stanley | 05/10/2018 If you feel like you’re lacking motivation, a fitness tracker may be just what you need to get you back on track!

    How many times have you thought … Monday is the Day! … 30 minutes of exercise? How will I fit that into my schedule between work and taking care of the kids?

    Let’s face it: getting (or staying) in shape is intimidating.

    The Surgeon General’s recommended thirty minutes of exercise may seem impossible to fit into your already-busy schedule, but you don’t have to do it all at once! Instead of viewing it as one (1) half-hour deviation from your day, break the time into shorter bursts and set a goal for the entire day.

    Still can’t manage to incorporate a new fitness program into your routine? That’s okay. You are already doing something that will get you one step closer to being in shape: walking. It may not seem like a heart-pumping exercise, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s all about the number of steps you take. Ten thousand steps is a rough equivalent to the needed 30–60 minutes of movement each day.

    Luckily, we live in a world in which technology exists to help us. Fitness trackers are great tools for helping us count our steps. Most fitness trackers are bracelets or clips that measure steps taken and distance covered in a day. A simple pedometer is a great and affordable option for tracking steps.

    However, more advanced fitness trackers analyze more than just steps taken. FitBit, JawBone, Apple, and Garmin are just a few brands that make fitness trackers–there are tons to choose from. These high-tech trackers measure steps, calories in, calories out, sleep quality, and more. Some fitness trackers even have heart rate capabilities to measure calories burned through forms of exercise that don’t involve walking or running.

    So which one should you choose? Well, it depends entirely on your needs and your technological savvy. Simple is often best to keep you on target. Don’t overwhelm yourself with extra “bells and whistles” you don’t need.

    Most trackers sync with an app on your mobile device or computer and allow you to monitor your progress throughout the day. Not surprisingly, the less expensive trackers are also simpler: the FitBit Zip ($49.95) is a clip-on tracker that monitors steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes. The FitBit Surge ($199.95), however, is the ultimate fitness watch: it tracks distance, pace, heart rate, calories, sleep, and even allows you to sync your music, calls, and texts from your mobile device.

    Most trackers also have an interactive feature: you can add friends on the mobile app and challenge one another to fitness face-offs. Not into group fitness? You can also embark on individual challenges and earn badges for your healthy accomplishments.

    Before you purchase a fitness tracker, consider what you’ll be using it for. This chart from Dick’s Sporting Goods provides a helpful comparison of some of the different fitness trackers. Find one that feels comfortable on your wrist or clothing–it doesn’t matter how many fancy features a tracker has, you aren’t going to wear it if it’s constantly annoying you.

    Wearable technology is moving in the right direction. It has never been easier to set a fitness goal and actually see yourself working toward it each day. If you feel like you’re lacking motivation, a fitness tracker may be just what you need to get you back on track!

  • Don't Stop Moving When it Starts Raining Don't Stop Moving When it Starts Raining 05/07/2018 Sometimes, it seems like there aren’t enough activities in the world to keep everyone active and entertained, so use these tips...

    Getting everyone into the car to go to the park just isn’t possible, especially when it's raining. It can be tempting to sit on the couch and watch TV or stare at a phone. Here’s a list of things you and your children can do to stay sane inside!

    1. Scavenger Hunt – Draw a map or write clues to lead kids from one room to another. Include as many clues and rooms as possible for maximum moving! We wrote a few to get you started.
    2. Hallway Bowling – Use full or recycled water bottles to set up bowling pins at the end of a hallway. Stand at the opposite end and bowl down the hall. Kids can get bonus points for including a silly dance move while bowling!
    3. Dance Party – This one speaks for itself. Get everyone moving with a catchy playlist. You can play freeze dance, pausing the music every so often and having everyone freeze in place, or choose a song and choreograph a dance, practicing until the routine is perfect!
    4. Hot Lava – An old favorite. The floor is hot lava! Pick beginning and end points in the house, then move from start to finish without touching the floor. Hop between pillows, couches, paper and anything else on the floor that will help you get there. Get creative and be careful!
    5. Obstacle Course – Why sit in a pillow fort when you can climb over one? Set up an obstacle course using couch cushions, blankets, pillows, and anything else you can think of. Have obstacle course building contests and races!
    6. Yoga – If you’d rather some gentler exercise, or need a way to wind down after a more rambunctious game, free yoga routines can be found all over the Internet. Some sites even have videos geared toward children. Grab yoga mats or towels and get going!
    7. Cards – Play your favorite card game, with a twist. Each number in the deck is paired with a dance or exercise move. When you play an ace, jump as high as you can! When you put down a five, do a ballerina twirl! For easier to remember pairings, just match each suit with an active move. Play war, Crazy Eights, Uno, or whichever game is your child’s favorite.

    Sometimes, it seems like there aren’t enough activities in the world to keep everyone active and entertained, so use these tips to stay active and healthy even if it's raining outside.

  • A Short Guide to Hiking A Short Guide to Hiking 05/01/2018 Hiking is one of the best ways to get in shape while taking advantage of beautiful weather and scenery in South Carolina.

    A hike, however short or long, is one of the best ways to get in shape while taking advantage of beautiful weather and scenery in South Carolina. Slightly uneven surfaces and mild hills are enough to engage all the muscles in your legs and core and give you a cardio workout.

    Getting started can be daunting, but hiking doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. It can be a relaxing walk through the woods, or a fast paced trek from marker to marker. Whether you’re experienced or a beginner, keep these tips in mind.

    • Ask your doctor first. If you have any preexisting conditions, old injuries, or if you have been inactive for a while, make sure to ask your doctor for advice on where you should start with exercise.
    • Wear appropriate clothes. Cotton is not good at wicking moisture (sweat) and stays wet for a long time. Athletic and synthetic fabrics are great at wicking moisture away from skin and keeping you cool and dry. If it’s cool enough, wear pants to prevent bug bites and poison ivy exposure
    • Wear comfortable shoes. It goes without saying that your feet will be doing a lot of work while you hike. Sneakers should be enough support for an easy to moderate hike, and hiking boots help on more difficult trails.
    • Bring water and a small first aid kit – especially if you plan on doing a more strenuous trail. You’ll always need water during exercise, and some simple first aid supplies are never a bad idea when you’re in the woods.
    • Look at the trail you plan to follow before you start. The Let’s Go! map can help you find a trail or park near you. Make sure the length is appropriate and that you’ll be able to get back to where you started. Both sctrails.net and southcarolinaparks.com have trail maps and information for you to check before you head out.
    • Don’t overdo it. Start with short, daytime hikes. It’s better to get back to the parking lot feeling like a hike was too easy than to run out of energy in the woods halfway through. Start slow and short in terms of trails.
    • Follow markers and stay on the trail, especially if you aren’t familiar with the area. A fun day can be easily ruined by getting lost in the forest and having to call rangers to come find you. Note the color of the markers on the map (usually in the parking lot) before starting a hike. Also note where trails intersect and markers possibly change color. Be a responsible hiker and stay on the marked paths.
    • Bring a buddy or tell someone where you’re going. Even if you’re only planning to be out for a few hours, it’s a good idea to hike in a populated area, take a friend, or tell someone where you’ll be when going into the woods.

    These are just some basics for hiking. If you want to know more, or are planning a longer trip, visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy site or the Backpacker site for even more useful tips.

    Hiking is a wonderful way to see more of your home state than ever before. Share your South Carolina trail experiences and pictures with us on the Let’s Go! Facebook page!

  • 9 Ways to Get 10,000 Steps a Day 9 Ways to Get 10,000 Steps a Day 04/05/2018 There are countless ways to reach a daily step goal. Find the tricks that work for you and keep you motivated to move and you'l...

    By now you've probably heard the latest research. Sitting is even worse for our health (and fitness) than we thought. And even if you do exercise regularly, you still face health risks if you are sedentary for the rest of your day (you know, the other 23 hours you're not working out in the gym). On top of these facts, some researchers argue that when it comes to weight loss or weight management, it's not even necessarily the people who -- exercise-- the most who come out on top: it's the people who are simply more -- active -- (think on their feet) that tend to be the leanest.

    The truth is: If you're not moving, you're losing out on major health and weight-management boosters. No matter what your fitness level, setting a goal to move more can be a motivating way to improve your health. But just how do you accumulate 10,000 steps (roughly 5 miles) in a day?

    We've all heard the advice to park further away, walk to the furthest restroom in the office, or to take the stairs whenever possible. And these small bits DO add up. But if you're looking for some realistic ways to make a big difference, I've got you covered. Here are some ways of breaking up that lofty goal throughout the day into manageable chunks that will get you up and active for a healthier body.

    Smart Ways to Get 10,000 Steps a Day

    Try This Trifecta. Consider breaking your step goal into three smaller goals throughout the day: a morning walk, a midday walk, and an evening walk. Make one a 3-mile power walking workout (in whichever slot you have the most time), and then squeeze in a 20-minute walk (roughly 1 mile) at lunch and after dinner.

    Every Hour on the Hour. If you were to split up these steps during a normal workday (8-9 hours), that works out to just over 1,000 steps per hour. That means about a half mile walk (less than 10 minutes of time), spread out across the day. It won't be realistic for everyone to do this at work, but it may be realistic for some people to take a few 10-minute breaks during the workday—then squeeze the remaining 10-minute walks in before or after work. If you split up your steps throughout your regular waking (instead of just working) hours, that makes it even easier. Set a timer on your phone or computer and walk just 5 minutes every hour of the day until bedtime. DONE!

    Power Hour. Challenge yourself each day to accumulate as many steps as possible during one hour of the day. This can be part of your daily workout (wear your tracker while you ride the exercise bike, use the treadmill or run). Continue working harder over time so that you can cover more ground in the same amount of time!

    6 Legs in One. The easiest way for me to accumulate steps in a given day is to walk my dog. She's the best fitness partner around! We have a daily routine of walking in the morning and the evening—yes, on top of exercising or, some days, as my exercise for the day. Splitting up your walks into roughly two 2.5-mile sets is good for both of you. This is also a healthy routine that the whole family can enjoy together! No dog? Volunteer at your local shelter.

    Wear an Activity Tracker. I am a huge advocate for wearable fitness devices (like the Spark Activity Tracker) that track your steps and overall activity each day. This small reminder will encourage you to get up more, take longer route, use the stairs—and then some. As someone who was already exercising (even running!) regularly, I was shocked to find out after wearing my own tracker that I didn't come anywhere near 10,000 steps per day—not even on the days I worked out! Now I wear one every day. And it makes me want to get on my feet in every little way that I can to hit that daily goal. It's an amazing motivator! (Learn more about the Spark and see what a good little walker Ginger is in the video below!)

    Buddy Up. Since I broke my foot last summer, I've been really limited in the types of exercise I can do while it continues to heal. Still unable to run, what I can do is walk. Walking alone became really boring for me after so many months, so I started calling up friends to walk with me. I know this is the advice you hear all the time—that exercising with a buddy is more fun and will keep you accountable. And now that I've done it, it holds so true. My friends and I walk together as social time (beats sitting over coffee or wine for an hour or more) to chat and catch up. And when we are walking, we don't even notice the time or the distance—we just go and go. I get more steps and accumulate more distance with friends than I ever would on my own.

    Be Inefficient. We are all so busy that it makes sense to multitask, combining several errands in a single trip, ordering takeout from the computer we're already sitting in front of, or carrying that armload of clothes + toys + shoes + toilet paper upstairs in a single trip. While technology has made a lot of things easier on us, what if you deliberately tried to be inefficient—any time it involved being on your feet. On days that I know I've been less active, I choose to be inefficient as a way to get more activity in while getting my daily chores or work done. For example, I'll carry the laundry downstairs in three smaller trips instead of one oversized basket, or pick up and put away one item in the house at a time instead of filling my arms in an efficient way. Although it can be difficult to justify taking more time to do basic things when you're busy, I justify it to myself by thinking of it as multitasking: I'm getting activity in at the same time as my chores.

    Be Efficient. On the flipside, are there ways you could multitask in order to get more steps in? By this I mean looking at the commonly sedentary tasks you do each day (making phone calls, sitting near your kids while they play, watching TV, reading, etc.) and deciding if there's a way you can add walking (or other movement) to that activity. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a treadmill desk at work, but I also try to get up and walk around as often as possible when I'm talking on the phone, for example. And here at SparkPeople, when we have small one-on-one discussions with co-workers or brainstorming meetings, we'll often head outside and walk while we talk if there's no need to be in a formal conference room. Perhaps you, too, can watch TV while you exercise, read (or listen to) that book on the stationary bike, or get moving with your kids when they're playing.

    Step It Up Inside. Indoor walking workout DVDs are extremely popular and allow you to get moving no matter what the weather. Some titles are specific walking distances like 3 to 5 miles. We love Leslie Sansone's Walk Away the Pounds series as well as newcomer (and SparkPeople contributor) Jessica Smith's motivating walking DVDs.

    As you can see, there are countless ways to reach a daily step goal. Find the tricks that work for you and keep you motivated to move and you'll hit that daily number in no time!

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