How do I start walking for exercise?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Walking reduces anxiety and stress; decreases the risk of major cancers, memory loss, and type 2 diabetes; improves heart and lung function; and increases flexibility. Plus, it's fun! You'll start to lose weight and feel better almost immediately. Get started with these tips:
  • Buy new walking shoes. Go to a shoe store in the afternoon (your feet are larger then) and try on running shoes. They’re the best shoes for walking, too. Then buy them. It’ll raise your commitment level.
  • Make a walking plan you can carry out. Week one: Maybe all you can do is walk down the block and back. Do it daily. Extend your distance a little each time you go out. Shoot for building up to 3,000 steps a day over two walks. Over six weeks, increase to 10,000 steps a day. You don’t have to do that all at once. Every step counts toward the 10,000. For example: Walking in place while watching 20 minutes of TV equals 1,000 steps; walking during a 15-minute phone call, another 1,000 steps; 30 minutes of vacuuming, 2,000 steps. Get a pedometer to keep track of your steps.
  • Get a buddy for daily walks or for support. The pal can give you a get-going poke if you don’t check in. No one available? Don’t forget: Hoofing it with a canine companion will speed up your pace by an impressive 28%. Don’t stop stepping when Fido stops -- walk circles around him.
So, lace up those walking shoes, take a deep breath, and remember -- every success starts with the first step.
Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Getting into shape starts with just one mile of walking workout. You can do this on a treadmill or take your global position system (GPS)-equipped phone with you on a walk outside (or the old-fashioned method of mapping out a mile from your car's odometer so you know when to turn around). Alternatively, you can find a track at your local high school and walk around it four times. If you're on a treadmill, try putting your speed at 4.0 (four miles per hour) and see if you can keep up with that. If not, slow down. See how long it takes for you to do a full mile. Can you reach a mile under 15 minutes? Make it a goal of just walking one mile at the start and then as you increase your speed, watch your time drop off. This is an indication that you're getting more fit. Ideally, a great walking workout is to walk three miles in fewer than 45 minutes. Don't hesitate to add intensity to your walks with handheld weights, hills (inclines and declines), stairs, and intervals of taking it up a notch and cranking hard for 10 minutes here and there.
Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged

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Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged

       From celebrated dietitian Ashley Koff and fitness trainer to the stars Kathy Kaehler comes Mom Energy, an exciting new way for moms to tap into their own natural and renewable sources of...

Lace up some supportive shoes and go! Walking is a great exercise and very simple to start. Prior to starting, you may want to consider purchasing a pedometer. This will help show progress and give you a goal to reach on a daily basis. Shoot to walk 10,000 steps every day. Another thought might be to create a walking log and walking calendar. Both of these will assist you to keep track of your walking progress and to help you reach goals that you may want to set.

Any walking program should have three segments: a warm-up, a segment of optimal exercise pace, and a cool-down. Start with a modest goal, such as 15 to 20 minutes. Walk the first five minutes at a reduced pace, about half of your maximum effort; pause to stretch your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and lower back. Then pick up the pace, using an even stride. Let your heel strike the ground first, and push off with your toe. Don’t exert yourself beyond feeling as if you are doing “moderate” work (if you can’t carry on a conversation while you walk, you need to slow down). Keep your shoulders back and relaxed, letting your arms swing naturally. After about five to 10 minutes at this pace, slow to your warm-up pace for about the last five minutes to give your body time to cool down and allow your heart rate to return to normal. Finish with a few stretches in your legs and lower back to relax your muscles.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.