Walking is the most popular physical activity among adults. Taking a walk is low cost and doesn’t require any special clothes or equipment. If you’ve been thinking about adding more physical activity to your life, starting a walking program may be a great way to be more active. And walking on a regular basis can lead to many health benefits.
- Lower your risk of health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Help you burn more calories
- Lift your mood
Most people do not need to see a doctor before they start a walking program. But if you answer “yes” to any of the questions below, check with your doctor first.
- Has your doctor told you that you have heart trouble, diabetes, or asthma?
- When you are physically active, do you have pains in your chest, neck, shoulder, or arm?
- Do you often feel faint or have dizzy spells?
- Do you feel very breathless after physical activity?
- Do you have bone or joint problems, like arthritis, which make it difficult for you to walk?
- Do you have a health problem that might keep you from starting a walking program?
Make a Plan
To get started, it’s helpful to make a plan. First, decide where you will walk, how often, and how far. Then make sure that you have shoes with the proper arch support and comfortable clothes.
Divide your walk into three parts. Warm up by walking slowly, and then increase your speed to a brisk walk. This means walking fast enough to raise your heart rate while still being able to speak and breathe easily. Cool down by slowing down your pace.
When walking, be sure to use proper form. Keep your chin up and your shoulders slightly back. Let the heel of your foot touch the ground first, and then roll your weight forward. Walk with your toes pointed forward and swing your arms naturally.
As walking becomes easier, walk faster and go farther. Keep track of your progress with a walking journal or an electronic device like a fitbit. Adults need 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (activity that speeds up your heart rate and breathing) to stay healthy. It’s easy to plan on 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Or you can break it up into 10 minutes, 3 times a day.
For more health benefits and to control your weight, you may need to walk more. Aim for 300 minutes each week, or about 1 hour a day for 5 days. The more you walk, the more health benefits you may gain!
It’s important to make walking, or any exercise, a habit so you’ll stick with it. Make walking fun by having a friend or family member to chat with, or listen to some of your favorite music as you walk. When barriers come up, like time demands or bad weather, think of ways to beat them, like finding a place to walk inside. If you have a setback, start again as soon as you can. With time, walking will become a part of your daily routine and may make it easier to try other types of physical activity.
Heartland Community College is now offering a community access program at the Fitness and Recreation Center. Enrollment in this program will provide everything you need to meet your fitness goals, including a walking track, treadmills, ellipticals, free weights, and weight machines. For more information on this program, contact Community Education at 309-268-8160 or online at www.heartland.edu/communityEd.
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