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Beginning A Fitness Walking Program

If you've been thinking about walking regularly but don't know where to begin, there is a wealth of information available to help you get started. Walking is by far one of the most enjoyable and easiest forms of exercise. All that's required is a decent pair of shoes, comfy clothing, and the desire to get out there and walk.

Getting Started

When you start a regular walking program, remember to take it slowly and go easy. All you have to do is walk out the door, keep walking for about 10 minutes or so, and then walk back. That's really all it takes to get started with a regular walking regimen. If you do this every day for a week and find it easy, add five more minutes to your walk the following week. Continue adding five minutes at a time until you reach your desired total walking time.

If walking for physical activity and fitness is new to you, start off with slower sessions and gradually work your way up: Don't focus on speed when you start. After a few weeks have passed, you'll begin to notice how much easier it is for you to pick up the pace. Always check with your doctor before you start any exercise routine, especially if you have a medical condition or other health concerns.

Walking Tips

As you walk outdoors, watch your posture and try to walk tall as you elongate your body. Keep your head up and your eyes focused forward. Your shoulders should be down and placed in a back, relaxed position. You can tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks as you fall into a natural stride. It's best to walk on a softer surface like the grass or a track as opposed to asphalt or concrete because it's easier on your feet. Always drink water before, during, and after your walk. You should also add some warmup and cooldown exercises into your daily routine. Begin the walk at a slow pace, and then stop to do a few flexibility drills. Continue walking until you've reached your daily goal time. As you end the walk, begin a slower cooldown pace and then stretch afterward. As you stretch, you'll feel better and help to prevent any possible injuries.

Perhaps one of the most difficult things about starting any fitness program is to remember to make it a habit. As you walk daily, it will become easier and easier. A minimum of five days a week is a great goal to start with. Walk fast enough so that you elevate your heart rate without feeling like you need to gasp for air. Once you begin, don't focus on distance or speed. As long as you get out and walk on a regular basis, you'll begin to form a healthy habit. Over time, you can easily re-evaluate your current walking program and your ultimate fitness goal to match your needs.

Walking Goal Guidelines

If you're planning to start a walking program for your health, a minimum of 30 minutes per day on most days of the week is best. Walk at what's called a "talking pace." This term means that you may experience elevated breathing, but you're still able to carry on a conversation. In fact, having a walking partner to talk to can make the whole process easier and much more motivating.

For those who want improved cardiovascular fitness, you should walk from 20 to 30 minutes at least three to four days a week at a faster pace. A fast walking pace means you're breathing a bit harder than usual, but you're still not gasping for air. Remember to perform warmup and cooldown exercises and add those to the total time spent walking at a faster pace.

If you plan to walk for weight loss, you'll need at least 45 to 60 minutes for a minimum of five days a week. Walk at a moderate to brisk pace. The faster you walk, the more calories you will burn in the same amount of time. Be sure to increase your mileage and your pace for best results, and then cool down slowly to prevent injury.

Add more activity throughout your day, and use a pedometer or fitness watch to track your steps. Keeping track of your progress is an excellent motivational tool to help you reach your goals. A popular and reasonable goal for most people is to increase your average daily steps every week to around 500 per day. Soon, you'll easily be able to reach 10,000 steps per day, which is a healthy, sustainable goal. With a little bit of practice, a good walking partner like your kids or a friend, and some motivation, you'll easily be able to reach your daily walking goals in no time.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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