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Published on April 14, 2020

rear view of woman walking her dog in a park

Walk Your Way to Fitness

When most of us think of increasing our physical activity, we simply don’t know where to start, especially if it’s been awhile since we’ve exercised.

“Often getting started is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Walking is an excellent form of exercise for all ages and abilities,” said Debbie Lancto, Well-Being Specialist for Avera Health Plans.

With all the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the number of positive benefits for your body and health from walking, it is sad that walking is often an underrated form of exercise. 

Here are just a few of the benefits of walking:

  • Improves fitness, balance, cardiac health and coordination
  • Lowers blood pressure while it alleviates depression and fatigue
  • Improves mood, reduces pain and can be good for weight loss
  • Reduces risk of cancer and chronic diseases
  • Strengthens your bones and muscles

Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout.

One of the keys to a successful walking program is consistency. A good goal is 30 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days a week.

If you are new to walking, here are a few tips to getting started:

  • If you have any health condition, check with your health care provider before starting any physical activity program.
  • Find a safe place to walk.
  • Invest in a good pair of shoes.
  • Dress for comfort and safety
  • Do a five-minute warm up and cool down

You should also practice good technique on your walks, and that can include the following tips:

  • Walk at a brisk, steady pace. Slow down if you’re too breathless to carry on a conversation.
  • Keep your back straight, not arched forward or backward.
  • Keep your chin parallel to ground and look forward.
  • Keep your shoulders down, and point your toes straight ahead.
  • Let your arms swing loosely at your sides while you walk smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
  • Take comfortable strides. To go faster, take quicker steps instead of longer ones.

Start where you are, in terms of fitness, and then slowly work your way up. Aim to boost your daily walking-time total by five minutes until you're walking 30–60 minutes every day. If you find that you aren’t able to walk 30 minutes at one time, break it into three 10-minute segments, and make sure you stay hydrated.

Drink water before and after your walk. Take water with you on your walk, especially in warm weather.

Success Strategies

  • Have a backup plan. If you overslept and missed your morning walk, bring your shoes to work and sneak in a 15-minute walk over your lunch hour.
  • Have a walking buddy. A walking buddy can be a friend, family member, coworker or even your four-legged companion. Committing to walk with someone else helps to motivate on those “I don’t feel like it” days.
  • Listen to audio books or podcasts while you walk.
  • Research new areas to walk and develop a schedule.
  • Set a walking goal. Walking goals can be a certain number of steps, distance or time.

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