6 Tips for New Walkers
Walking as exercise is a great way to improve your overall health and well-being. Walking burns up to 100 calories per mile, and can help to reduce fat, weight, and improve heart health. It is also an inexpensive way to begin an exercise program, as no expensive gym memberships are required. All you need is some motivation, a comfortable pair of supportive shoes, and weather appropriate clothing.
Here are 6 tips to help you to get started:
Walk at a conversational pace.
You should feel some effort while walking, but make sure that you can maintain a conversation. In fact, walking with a friend or spouse is a great way to stay motivated while improving health and relationships!
Depending on your fitness level, a gradual increase in walk length and intensity is recommended. One example is to increase your walking time by 3-5 minutes every week. National guidelines recommend performing 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise. This would mean a 30 minute walk 5 days per week. At the beginning this may seem like a lot, but even small amounts of exercise are beneficial to your health. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to walk up to 1 hour at a time.
Set goals, but be realistic.
One way to stay motivated when beginning any new exercise program is to set goals. Consider picking an event or activity, such as a local or charity 5K run/walk. This helps to set a firm time line to achieve, and can help to motivate you to get outside and walk when your legs might feel a little bit tired, or the weather might not quite be perfect!
Dress for success.
Wearing comfortable and supportive shoes is a critical factor in improving and maintaining a walking program. Your foot wear should provide adequate cushioning for your heel, and not cause blisters. Comfortable, moisture wicking socks can also help to prevent blisters and minimize foot moisture. Very thin or unsupportive footwear, such as flip-flops or sandals, can lead to toe and foot pain.
Clothing should be comfortable and breathable. Avoid clothes that are too tight or cause chafing between your legs or in your armpits. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather and temperature.
Consult your doctor.
Consider visiting your doctor before beginning an exercise program if you have heart problems, diabetes, difficulty with shortness of breath or dizziness with standing up or walking, a history of fainting, are pregnant, or if you are over the age of 65 and are not currently involved in an exercise program.
Most importantly, have FUN!
Walking is a very social and enjoyable activity, and can lead to a healthier lifestyle!
Karl F. Bowman, Jr., MD
General Orthopedics, Sports Medicine