It's cheap, it's easy to do and it's good for your bones and your brain. Walking for exercise is ideal for almost everyone.
"Sometimes the hardest part of working out is getting started," says Dr. Carolyn Hettrich, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
She has outlined a five-step approach to help make walking for exercise part of your daily routine.
Five tips to begin walking for exercise:
1. Start walking!
Walking requires minimal preparation and yields significant benefits--almost immediately. To begin, create a walking routine of at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
2. Get the right shoes.
The only expense you'll incur is good walking shoes. Choose shoes that support your arch, while slightly elevating your heel. There should be stiff material surrounding the heel to prevent your foot from wobbling. The toe area should be roomy but not too long.
3. Pick up the pace.
For the first five minutes of your walk warm up your muscles by walking at a normal pace. Then pick up the pace for the next 15 minutes, walking quickly enough so your heart beats faster and you must breathe more deeply. While you're walking, swing your arms and keep your head up, your back straight and your abdomen flat. Take long strides, but don't strain. Cool down by walking at your warm-up speed again for five more minutes, and do gentle stretching after your walk.
4. Walk, rest, walk more.
When you first begin walking for exercise, take walks three or four days a week with days of rest in between. Do this for two weeks. After two weeks, add five minutes to the strenuous part of your walk, and keep adding five minutes every two weeks as you gradually build strength and endurance. Consider giving your upper body a workout by carrying weights (one to five pounds) in each hand. If you need to reduce the stress on your legs, knees, ankles or feet, use a walking stick to improve lower body stability.
Do drink enough water to prevent dehydration. Specifically, drink one pint of water 15 minutes before you start your walk and another pint after you cool down. Have a drink of water every 20 minutes or as needed while you exercise.
--From the Editors at Netscape