If you’re new to exercise and fitness, one of the best ways to start is with a walking program.
“Walking is the activity that is the most accessible to most people,” says Melinda Norris, project manager for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia’s Walkabout program. “It can really activate those people with a sedentary lifestyle. All it takes is 30 to 60 minutes of walking to see the benefits.”
Norris says there are plenty of benefits to be had by walking, including:
It doesn’t have to be hard to start walking. Almost anyone can do it, and the only investment required is a good pair of shoes. You can walk outside, in a mall, on a treadmill, or anywhere your two feet take you.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia also offers these tips to help you get started.
Check out your community: Are there plenty of sidewalks and paths you can use? Can you walk to work, to the grocery store, to your friend's home? Even if you live in a car-oriented community, your local park or a nearby bike or hiking trail can be a great venue for walking. Indoor shopping malls are also a good place to walk when the weather is too cold or hot.
Choose the right gear: Good walking shoes can reduce strain on your back and make you focus on increasing your heart rate. Shop around and, if necessary, get an expert to give you advice on how to find a shoe that fits.
Walk with care. Warm up by walking slowly for five minutes, and don’t forget water – even in winter – to replace fluids you may lose through sweating. When engaging in physical activity, you should always be able to talk. If you feel short of breath, dizzy, or experience discomfort in your chest, shoulders or arms, stop what you are doing immediately.
Go slow and steady: Your muscles are like new shoes. You need to break them in slowly. If you go out and buy a brand new pair of shoes and wear them for a whole day, you end up with blisters. Likewise, a fast hour-long walk on your first day can cause your shins or calves to ache. Instead, walk for short periods throughout your day (10 minutes here and there) at a comfortable pace.
Schedule walking to fit your day: If you make walking part of your day, you can make sure you get the activity you need to stay healthy. Start by thinking of ways you can walk every day.
Keep a log: One of the best ways to stick with walking is to keep a record. Record the dates and times you walk. You can also include information on the way you felt before and after to help with motivation.
A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.