Walking really is like food for life: It reduces stress, tones your body, is a low-impact activity that requires no sweating or pain to increase your circulation, and it’s enjoyable.
Here are some helpful tips to make walking more fun and a part of your daily routine:
1. Haste makes waste. Go slowly. If you're out of shape and just getting started, be careful. If a five-minute walk in the morning and another in the evening is all you can manage, that's fine. At first, walk on a flat surface and avoid hills. Then build up, adding more minutes each session. If you overdo it by jumping from no walks to hour-long hikes, it could take you weeks to recover.
2. Get happy feet: Wear a good pair of shoes. The only necessary expense of walking is a good pair of shoes. If your shoes are worn out or fit poorly, walking may hurt. And if walking hurts, you won't want to do it anymore. Invest in shoes that offer solid support. Thick treads may lower your risk of falling. Get your feet measured, too — correct fit for size and arch support are important. Be ready to replace your shoes every 500 miles.
3. No pain=gain: Take breaks. If you aim to walk 30 minutes today, don't do it all at once. Rest along the way. For instance, try walking in a park or at the mall where you know there are plenty of benches. Sit down for a few minutes when you need to.
4. Buddy up! Walk with a friend. You're more likely to enjoy exercise — and more likely to stick to it! — if you get active with someone else. Find a walking buddy and make a pledge to walk regularly. Your buddy could be your spouse, a neighbor, or even your dog. If you know someone else is counting on you, you're more likely to stay on track. It can push you to get out and move when you might otherwise stay on the couch.
5. Plan a time. Try to walk at the same time every day — maybe at lunch or after work. The more regular walking is, the more likely you'll stick to it.
6. Measure your progress! Use a pedometer. Step counters make it easy to mark your progress. Seeing how many steps you took today can also inspire you to take more tomorrow. Add steps each week until you meet your goal. Ten thousand steps is a good goal. Just don't expect to get there the first time you walk! Newer wearable fitness devices not only track steps, but also log stairs climbed, calories burned, and other data. You then can upload the results to a website or your smartphone to track your progress.
7. Take your show on the road. Walk wherever you are. Squeeze in extra steps wherever you can. Skip the drive-through at the bank and walk inside. When you're waiting to pick up your kids after one of their activities, get out of the car and walk for a few minutes. Remember: Every step counts!
Sources: WebMD and Arthritis Foundation