Written By Thomas W. Clark, M.D.
Your Walking Plan for Success
Walking — it’s one of the best fitness activities that you can do. It’s low-risk, easy and free. The only equipment you really need is a good pair of sneakers. In fact, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health recommend that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. This can be achieved by walking two miles briskly, at about four miles per hour.
No matter what your goal is, one tool can help—a good pedometer. This will help you track your progress and give you credit for your movement throughout the day, not just with your new walking program. It should be worn daily and for best results. Keep the pedometer as horizontal as possible. If it is tilted at all, the reading will not be accurate.
Before you do anything, wear your pedometer for an entire day. How many steps did you take? No matter what the number is, celebrate movement and don’t be hard on yourself. Remember, the hardest part of starting a fitness program is starting at all! Over time, your goal is to build up to 10,000 steps a day, the equivalent of about five miles. It is possible—really!
First, determine your goal: Why are you walking? Is it for weight loss? Heart health? General well being? Next, work towards your goal using the following guidelines.
Dr. Clark’s 7 Safety Tips:
1. Always try to walk with a partner when you can.
2. Stick to familiar neighborhoods with plenty of activity.
3. Know your route. While traveling, check with the hotel desk for safe walking routes.
4. Let a friend know your route and estimated walking time. If there is no one to tell, leave a note inside your home in a visible place.
5. Varying your route prevents boredom and promotes safety. Never let your route become predictable to others.
6. If you feel you are being followed by a motor vehicle, turn around and walk the other way, remaining on the same side of the road.
7. Keep your cell phone with you, but observe your environment without distractions. Likewise, keep your iPod on low volume or listen with one ear only.
1. if you are walking for general good health:
2. if you are walking to improve your cardiovascular health:
3. if you are walking for weight loss
Finally, use common sense. It is important to pace yourself and avoid injury. You may start walking five to 10 minutes, two to three times a week and gradually increase your days, distance and time each week. If it bothers your joints to do a long walk, you may consider taking a couple of shorter walks during the day instead. If it hurts, stop and consult your doctor as you shouldn’t experience pain.