Walk for Your Health
Walking is one of the easiest ways for you to be physically active. This article provides you with general tips on how to create and follow a walking plan. Walking is inexpensive, and you can walk almost anywhere and at any time. Walking may:
- Give you more energy and stamina and lift your mood
- Tone your muscles and strengthen your bones
- Increase the number of calories your body uses
- Lower your risk of health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes
- Give you an opportunity to actively socialize with friends and family
The Weight-control Information network (WIN) offers numerous free resources to help you begin working on your health and fitness goals. Visit the Weight-control Information Network to download and share this and other WIN materials.
Know Before You Go
Answer the following questions before you begin a walking program.
- Has your health care provider 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 extremely breathless after you have been physically active?
- Has your health care provider told you that you have bone or joint problems, such as arthritis?
- Are you over 50 years old and not used to doing any moderate physical activity?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have a health problem or physical reason not mentioned here that might keep you from starting a walking program?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, check with your health care provider before starting a walking program.
Start Walking Now!
Leave time in your busy schedule to follow a walking program that will work for you. Keep the following points in mind:
- Choose a safe place to walk. Find a partner or group to walk with you. Encourage and support each other in committing to walking regularly even if each of you has a different fitness level or walks at a different pace.
- Wear shoes with proper arch support, a firm heel and thick flexible soles. They will cushion your feet and absorb shock. Before you buy new shoes, walk in them in the store.
- Wear clothes that will keep you dry and comfortable. Put on fabrics that absorb sweat and remove it from your skin.
- Divide your walk into three parts. Warm up slowly, then increase your speed to a brisk walk. This means walking fast enough to elevate your heart rate while still being able to speak comfortably, concentrate and breathe without effort. Cool down slowly.
- Stretch lightly after warm-up and cool-down.
- Spread your walking evenly throughout the week. Try to walk at last 3 days each week if you cannot walk daily. Each week, add a few minutes to your walk.
- Break up your walk into multiple sessions throughout the day if you have a busy schedule. Make sure each session is at least 10 minutes long. Some physical activity is better than none.
- To avoid stiff or sore muscles or joints, start gradually. Over several weeks, begin walking faster, going further and taking longer walks.
- Set goals and reward yourself.
- Keep track of your progress with a walking journal or log. Record date, time and distance.
Experts recommend at least 150 minutes each week of moderately intense physical activity. Divide these minutes up over the week as your schedule allows. The more you walk, the more health benefits you may gain.
Keep safety in mind as you plan when and where you walk.
- If you walk at dawn, dusk or night, wear a reflective vest or brightly colored clothing.
- Walk in a group when possible. And carry some identification with you, as well as a way to contact someone if you need help.
- Notify family and friends of your group's walking time and route.
- Do not wear jewelry or headphones.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
Stretch it Out
Stretch gently after you warm up your muscles, and again after you cool down. Try doing the stretches below. Do not bounce or hold your breath when you stretch. Perform slow movements and stretch only as far as you feel comfortable.
Reach one arm over your head and to the side. Keep your hips steady and your shoulders straight to the side. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Lean your back against a wall. Keep your head, hips and feet in a straight line. Pull one knee toward your chest, hold for 10 seconds, and then repeat with the other leg.
Lean your hands on a wall and place your feet about 3 to 4 feet away from the wall. Bend one knee and point it toward the wall. Keep your back leg straight with your foot flat and your toes pointed straight ahead. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
Pull your right foot toward your buttocks with your right hand. Stand straight and keep your knee pointing straight down. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with your other foot and hand.
Step Right This Way
Walking with proper form is very important.
Walk with your chin up and your shoulders slightly back.
Let the heel of your foot touch the grou first, then roll your weight forward.
Walk with your toes pointed forward.
Swing your arms naturally as you walk.
Try to walk daily. If you are walking fewer than three times per week, give yourself more than two weeks before increasing the pace and frequency.
Weight-control Information Network
1 Win Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3665
Phone: (202) 828-1025
FAX: (202) 828-1028
Toll-free number: 1-877-946-4627
The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health, which is the Federal Government's lead agency responsible for biomedical research on nutrition and obesity.
NIH Publication No. 07-4155
December 31, 2011