If you are thinking of starting an exercise program but not sure which form of exercise is right for you, walking may be the answer. Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise for most individuals and presents the lowest risk of injury. All you need are comfortable clothes and supportive shoes. Walking can result in numerous health benefits including lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels and increased energy. According to the American Council on Exercise, an eight-year study of 13,000 people found that those who walked 30 minutes a day had a significantly lower risk of premature death than those who rarely exercised. In addition, research has shown that regular walking can decrease total and intra-abdominal fat and reduce your risk of developing diabetes or breast cancer.
Whether the walk is around the block, in the mall or on the track, start slowly if you are new to exercise. An easy 10 minute walk is all it takes to get started. Walk at a “conversation pace”, which means to walk at a pace where breathing is increased but you can carry on a conversation. Do this every day to get into a routine. As the walk becomes easier, add 5 more minutes of walking time. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise for health benefits. Set this as your goal and work toward increasing the amount of time that you walk. You can also split up the time in 10 to 15 minute increments throughout the day. For example, take a 15 minute walk in the morning and a 15 minute walk in the evening to accumulate 30 minutes.
If you need a little extra motivation as you progress in a walking program, try using a pedometer throughout the day. 10,000 steps is the recommended daily guideline, which is approximately 5 miles. A sedentary person may only average 1,000 to 3,000 steps per day. There are many ways to get walking time in such as planning a walk with your family or friends on a trail, parking further away from the store, taking the dog for regular walks, taking a “walking break/lunch” at work, or using the stairs instead of the elevator to increase activity. Whatever you choose, set your goal and stick with it!