Benefits of Walking
Before Beginning a Walking Program
Because walking has so many health benefits, it is no wonder that so many people have chosen it as their physical activity method of choice. If you are considering starting a walking program, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, talk with your healthcare provider before starting your program.
- Has your healthcare provider told you that you have heart trouble, diabetes, or asthma?
- When you are physically active, do you have pains in your chest, neck, shoulders, or arms?
- Do you often feel faint or have dizzy spells?
- Do you feel extremely breathless after you have been physically active?
- Has your healthcare provider told you that you have high blood pressure?
- Has your healthcare provider told you that you have bone or joint problems, such as arthritis?
- Are you over 50 years old and not used to doing any moderate physical activity?
- Are you pregnant?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have a health problem or physical reason not mentioned here that might keep you from starting a walking program?
Starting to WalkOnce you are ready to begin your walking program, start slowly if you are not active now. Try to walk 5 minutes a day for the first week. Walk 8 minutes the next week. Stay at 8-minute walks until you feel comfortable. Then increase your walks to 11 minutes. Slowly lengthen each walk by 3 minutes, or walk faster.
Some other tips for walking include the following:
- Wear comfortable walking shoes with a lot of support, including proper arch support, a firm heel, and thick, flexible soles that will cushion your feet and absorb shock. If you walk frequently, you may need to buy new shoes often. You may wish to speak with a podiatrist about when you need to purchase new walking shoes.
- Wear garments that prevent inner-thigh chafing, such as tights or spandex shorts. Also wear clothes that will keep you dry and comfortable. Look for synthetic fabrics that absorb sweat and remove it from your skin.
- Make walking fun by walking with a friend or pet. Walk in places you enjoy, like a park or shopping mall.
- Choose a safe place to walk. Find a partner or group of people to walk with you. Your walking partner(s) should be able to walk with you on the same schedule and at the same speed.
- Wear a knit cap in winter for extra warmth. To stay cool in summer, wear a baseball cap or visor.
- Think of your walk in three parts. Warm up by walking slowly for five minutes. Then increase your speed and do a fast walk. Finally, cool down by walking slowly again for five minutes.
- Do light stretching after your warm-up and cool-down.
- Try to walk at least three times per week. Each week, add two or three minutes to your walk. If you walk fewer than three times per week, you may need more time to adjust before you increase the pace or frequency of your walk.
- Start gradually to avoid stiff or sore muscles and joints. Over several weeks, begin walking faster, going farther, and walking for longer periods of time.
- Set goals and rewards. Some examples of goals are participating in a fun walk or walking continuously for 30 minutes.
- Keep track of your progress with a walking journal or log.
The more you walk, the better you may feel and the more calories you may burn. Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. If you cannot do 30 minutes at a time, try walking for shorter amounts and gradually working up to it.