Walking is a great way to increase your physical activity and improve your health. It’s an easy way to start and maintain a physically active lifestyle. It’s the most common physical activity for people across the U.S. Walking provides many opportunities to incorporate physical activity into your busy life – whether it’s for work, school, leisure, or to improve your health.
Physical activity such as walking can help control weight and improve health even without weight loss. People who are physically active live longer and have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.1
We Need More Physical Activity1
- Adults need at least 2 and 1/2 hours (150 minutes) of aerobic physical activity per week . This should be at a moderate level, such as fast-paced walk for no less than 10 minutes at a time. Aerobic physical activity makes you breathe harder and makes your heart and blood vessels healthier. Examples include brisk walking, running, swimming, and other activities.
- According to the CDC, less than half of all adults get the recommended amount of physical activity.
- Women and older adults are not as likely to get the recommended level of weekly physical activity.
- Inactive adults have higher risk for early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.
- Walking routes in and near neighborhoods encourage people to walk to stops for buses, trains, and trolleys.
Should You See a Doctor First?
- Most people do not need to see a doctor before they start a walking program.
- However, you should check with your doctor if you have a chronic health problem such as a heart condition, diabetes, or high blood pressure, are over 40 years old and have been inactive.
- You should also talk to your doctor if while walking, you get dizzy, feel faint or short of breath; or have chest, neck, shoulder or arm pain.2
How to Start Walking More
1. Set realistic goals and how you plan to achieve them. Set realistic goals such as walking 10 to 15 minutes three times a week.
- Create an action plan for how far and how often you will walk.
- Where would you like to be in 6 months to a year in your walking program?
- Plan where you will walk, what days of the week you will walk.
- Identify a walking buddy or support person.
2. Be prepared.
- Make sure you have everything you need to get started such as shoes that fit right and have good arch support; a firm, well-cushioned heel; and nonskid, flexible soles.
- Ensure you have clothes that keep you dry and comfortable, a hat or visor for the sun, sunscreen, and sunglasses; a hat and scarf to cover your head and ears when it’s cold outside, and layers of clothing in cold weather that you can remove as you warm up.
3. Get moving.
- Divide your walk into three parts: warm up by walking slowly; increase your speed to a brisk walk; and cool down by slowing your pace.
- When walking be sure to use proper form: keep your chin up and your shoulders slightly back and relaxed.
- Look forward, not at the ground.
- Keep your back straight, rather than arched forward or backward.
- Let the heel of your foot touch the ground first, and then roll your weight forward.
- Walk with your toes pointed forward.
- Swing your arms naturally.
4. Add on.
- As walking gets easier, start to go faster and farther. Add hills or stairs to make your walks more challenging.
- If you are walking less than three times per week, give yourself more than 2 weeks before adding time to your walk.
How To Make Walking a Healthy Habit
- Don’t give up. Stick with your walking program.
- Walk in places you enjoy, like a park or shopping center. To stay motivated, try different routes to keep it interesting.
- Listen to your favorite music as you walk, remembering to keep the volume low so you can hear sounds around you.
- Bring a friend or a family member. Having a regular walking buddy or support person may help you keep going. You can cheer each other on and serve as role models for friends, family members, coworkers, and your community.
- Have a “Plan B” for when bad weather or other roadblocks get in the way. Be ready to walk indoors rather than outdoors.
- Track your progress on paper, online, with a fitness app, fitness tracker or a pedometer. Record dates, distance, and how you felt when you were done.
- Reward yourself with something pleasant after you walk, like a relaxing shower or a 30 minutes of time to yourself.
- Be prepared for setbacks. If certain obstacles prevent you from walking, get back to your routine as soon as you can.
With time, walking can become part of your daily life and may even make it easier to try other types of physical activity.
20 Ways to Add More Steps
- Find a buddy who can take walks with you.
- Walk your dog in the morning for 15 minutes and in the evening for 10 minutes.
- March in place while brushing your teeth.
- Exercise indoor with a workout DVD.
- Play hide and seek with your kids.
- Have a dance party with your kids.
- Walk your kids to school or the school bus.
- Walk while chatting on the phone.
- Make it a nightly habit to go for an after-dinner stroll with the family.
- If you’re going to the mailbox, take a tour around the house first or a lap around your block.
- During commercials, don’t fast forward your DVR – stand up and march in place or pick things up around the house.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park far from the office.
- Get off the bus/train one stop before or after your regular stop to take extra steps.
- Walk to a coworker’s office instead of calling or emailing them.
- Use the restroom that is one floor up (or down) at work instead of heading for the one closest to your office.
- Use the water or coffee machine one floor up (or down) at work instead of heading for the one closest to your office.
- Set reminders on your phone or calendar to take a walking break.
- Take afternoon “brainstorming” walks.
- Pick up your lunch instead of ordering takeout.