Are you getting enough exercise? According to the Surgeon General of the United States, most adults should get at least 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or at least 150 minutes moderate physical activity each week to be healthy. One easy way to get in your 150 minutes each week is through walking.
Walking has many benefits. It’s free, you can do it almost anytime and anywhere, you need nothing more than your own two feet. Walking is also a great way to maintain a healthy weight or to shed those extra pounds.
The First Step: Good Shoes
Whether you walk outdoors, on a treadmill or at the local mall, you will want to invest in a good pair of walking shoes. Walking shoes are designed to give you the flexibility, support and proper push off needed for walking. Everyone’s feet are different, but look for shoes that are light, flexible and immediately feel comfortable. Walking shoes should not require a “breaking in” period.
Setting the Pace
You can walk to maintain your health or as part of a weight-loss program. To get moving, experts advise beginners to start with a 15- or 30-minute walk daily, adding five or 10 minutes to the walking session time per week. More specifically:
- To maintain your health, walk 30 minutes a day most days of the week at a “talking” pace, which means you are able to carry on a conversation comfortably while walking.
- If you are walking for weight loss, walk 45 to 60 minutes a day at a medium to fast pace. In addition, do not skip more than two days per week.
- For aerobic and cardiovascular fitness, walk 20 minutes at a very fast pace (you should be breathing hard), three to four days a week.
After walking, gentle stretching can help keep your muscles from being sore. It is also wise to warm up before walking fast or going a long distance.
Make sure to be safe while walking outside:
- Always walk on sidewalks (or on the left side of the street facing traffic if there are no sidewalks).
- Be aware of traffic.
- Carry identification and your cellphone in case of emergencies.
- In the evening hours, wear reflective gear and/or carry a flashlight in front of you.
- Avoid walking on very busy streets during heavy traffic hours. In addition to traffic risks, the increased exhaust can present health risks for some people.
Going the Distance
Once you get started, you will want to stay motivated. Consider finding a walking friend, joining a walking club or registering for a challenging walking event. Remember that you will not notice immediate physical changes to your body, but by adding walking and a healthy diet to your daily routine, it won’t be long before you look and feel better.
Find ways to incorporate walking into your daily routine for even more fitness results. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Park at the far end of the parking lot instead of trying to find the closest spot to the door.
- Choose to walk with your children back and forth to school instead of driving them.
- While waiting for your children at sports practice or music lessons, use the time to take a walk around the field.
- Consider holding walking meetings at work. For more information on walking meetings, visit feetfirst.org
- When you need to use the restroom at work, walk the stairs to another floor to do so.
- While at work, at the shopping mall or other public buildings, consider taking the stairs instead of riding the escalator or taking the elevator.
- If you’re physically able, always take the stairs when traveling only three floors or less.
- You can also help the environment by taking the stairs versus using the elevator or escalator. Teach this eco-friendly lesson to your kids too!
- If you are traveling several floors up or down and cannot physically take the stairs the entire way, consider getting off the elevator one or two floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way.
- Huffing and puffing up the stairs will build your cardiovascular health, while also toning your leg muscles.
Don’t try to get all your walking in at one time. Not only is this a daunting task, but it is not as effective. By breaking up your exercise routine into smaller chunks—and making walking a regular part of your day, you will be more motivated to meet your goal and you will be burning calories throughout the day.
As you develop the habit of walking, you’ll quickly be amazed at how much better you feel and how fit you are becoming.
Note: Before beginning any walking program, consider discussing your exercise plans with your doctor, particularly if you have health issues such as diabetes or asthma.