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Know the benefits
Physical activity doesn’t need to be
complicated. Something as simple as a daily
brisk walk can help you live a healthier life.
For example, regular brisk
walking can help you:
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Prevent or manage various conditions,
including heart disease, high blood
pressure and type 2 diabetes
• Strengthen your bones
• Lift your mood
• Improve your balance and coordination
The faster, farther and more frequently you
walk, the greater the benefits.
Consider your technique
Turning your normal walk into a fitness
stride requires good posture and purposeful
movements. Ideally, here’s how you’ll look
when you’re walking:
• Your head is up. You’re looking forward,
not at the ground.
• Your neck, shoulders and back are relaxed,
not stiffly upright.
• You’re swinging your arms freely with
a slight bend in your elbows. A little
pumping with your arms is OK.
• Your stomach muscles are slightly tightened
and your back is straight, not arched
forward or backward.
• You’re walking smoothly, rolling your foot
from heel to toe.
Plan your routine
As you start your walking
routine, remember to:
Get the right gear.
Choose shoes with
proper arch support, a firm heel and thick
flexible soles to cushion your feet and absorb
shock. If you walk outdoors when it’s dark,
wear bright colors or reflective tape for
Choose your course carefully.
If you’ll
be walking outdoors, avoid paths with cracked
sidewalks, potholes, low-hanging limbs or
uneven turf.
Warm up.
Walk slowly for five to 10 minutes
to warm up your muscles and prepare your
body for exercise.
Cool down.
At the end of your walk, walk
slowly for five to 10 minutes to help your
muscles cool down.
After you cool down, gently stretch
your muscles. If you’d rather stretch before you
walk, remember to warm up first.
Set realistic goals
For most healthy adults,
the Department
of Health and Human Services recommends
at least two hours and 30 minutes a week of
moderate aerobic activity or one hour and 15
minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity -
preferably spread throughout the week - and
strength training exercises at least twice a
As a general goal,
aim for at least 30
minutes of physical activity a day. If you can’t
set aside that much time, try two 15-minute
sessions or three 10-minute sessions
throughout the day.
Remember, though,
it’s okay to start
slowly - especially if you haven’t been
exercising regularly. You might start with five
minutes a day the first week, and then increase
your time by five minutes each week until you
reach at least 30 minutes.
Track your progress
Keeping a record of how many steps you take,
the distance you walk and how long it takes
can help you see where you started from and
serve as a source of inspiration. Just think how
good you’ll feel when you see how many miles
you’ve walked each week, month or year.
Record these numbers in a walking journal or
log them in a spreadsheet or a physical activity
app. Another option is to use an electronic
device - such as a pedometer - to calculate
steps and distance.
Stay motivated
Starting a walking program takes initiative.
Sticking with it takes commitment. To stay
Set yourself up for success.
Start with
a simple goal, such as, “I’ll take a 10-minute
walk during my lunch break.” When your
10-minute walk becomes a habit, set a new
goal, such as, “I’ll walk for 20 minutes after
work.” Soon you could be reaching for goals
that once seemed impossible.
Make walking enjoyable.
If you don’t
enjoy solitary walks, ask a friend or neighbor
to join you. If you’re invigorated by groups,
join a health club.
Vary your routine.
If you walk outdoors,
plan several different routes for variety. If
you’re walking alone, be sure to tell someone
which route you’re taking.
Take missed days in stride.
If you find
yourself skipping your daily walks, don’t give
up. Remind yourself how good you feel when
you include physical activity in your daily
routine - and then get back on track.
Once you take that first step,
you’re on the way to an important
destination -
better health.
Oct/Nov 2013