Introduction

Walking is a form of aerobic exercise
and is one of the easiest ways to increase your physical activity and improve
your health. Physical activity increases your
heart rate, strengthens your heart, and increases
blood circulation through your body, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to your
organs. Exercise also increases your lungs’ ability to take in oxygen, lowers
blood pressure, helps to reduce body fat, and improves blood sugar and
cholesterol levels.

  • Have a checkup before beginning an exercise
    program. If you have heart problems, your doctor may want to do tests to find
    out how much activity your heart can safely handle.
  • Start out
    slowly at first, with a warm-up in the beginning, a faster pace in the middle,
    and a cooldown at the end.
  • To stay motivated, walk with friends,
    coworkers, or pets. Set goals you can reach.
  • Use a phone app or pedometer to
    count your steps. Wear it all day and try to take at least 2,000 more steps a
    day than you normally do, and gradually increase your steps over
    time.
  • Set a goal. Try to walk at a moderate activity level for at least 2½ hours a week. One way to do this is to walk 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week.

How can I stay motivated with a walking program?

One
of the best ways to stay motivated to walk is to include other people. Ask
friends and coworkers to join you. Join a walking group or club.

  • Use a phone app or buy a pedometer. Use
    it every day, and count your steps. The first time you use it, count how many
    steps you normally take in a day. Set a goal for increasing it each day or
    week. Try to start with an increase of 2,000 steps a day and work toward
    10,000. Get others to join you and set goals as a group.
  • Walk
    before or after work or on your lunch break. Instead of taking a snack or
    coffee break, take a walk break.
  • If the weather is bad, use a treadmill. Or take
    comfortable shoes to the mall, and walk several laps inside.
  • Walk to
    work, school, the grocery store, or a restaurant.
  • Walk around your
    neighborhood, around an entire park, or to do errands.
  • Schedule
    walks on your business calendar. Turn a walk into a brainstorming session with
    a coworker.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and socks that cushion your
    feet.
  • Drink plenty of water. Take a bottle with you when you
    walk.
  • Be safe, and know your surroundings. Walk in a well-lighted,
    safe place.
  • Plan family outings around walks
    together.
  • Take your dog on a walk.
  • Set a goal to
    participate in an organized fitness walk.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • American College of Sports Medicine (2010). Exercise prescription for patients with cardiac disease. In WR Thompson et al., eds., ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 8th ed., pp. 207-224. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  • Eckel RH, et al. (2013). 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.citation. Accessed December 5, 2013.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC – Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD – Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine

Current as ofOctober 5, 2017