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Start a Walking Program

Put one foot in front of the other ... and soon you'll be walking out the door!

Walking does so much for us. . .

  • strengthens the heart and lungs
  • increases muscle endurance in the legs and back
  • helps reduce body fat, lower blood sugar and control weight:
        on a brisk walk you can burn up to 300 calories per hour
  • improves posture and balance
  • boosts circulation
  • reduces the risks of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and osteoporosis
  • and the best part is, walking makes you feel great! You'll produce endorphins that generate an overall feel of well-being and can relieve anxiety and stress.

Getting Started
Sometimes the biggest challenge is just getting going! Here are some tips for starting your walking program:

  1. Stretch your muscles to warm them up before you start. See the guidelines for stretching for more information.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and socks made of synthethic or smooth material (not cotton) to avoid friction.
  3. Start slowly. Begin with 5 minutes and work up to 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week.
  4. Walk comfortably at a brisk, steady pace. You want to get your heart rate up, but you should still be able to talk while you walk. Stop or slow down if you get out of breath.
  5. Keep your head up, back straight, shoulders back and stomach flat. Let your arms swing back and forth.
  6. Take smooth even steps. Land on the heel of your foot and roll off your toes.
  7. Begin with 5 minutes at a slower warm-up speed. Then pick up the pace to raise your heart rate. Cool down with a slower pace for the last 5 minutes.
  8. Increase your time and distance gradually. You can increase the middle portion of your walk every 2-3 weeks until you are walking 2-1/2 to 3 miles in 45-50 minutes. This may take 3-4 months to accomplish.
  9. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your walk.

Staying with It
Here are some more tips for motivating yourself to keep going and getting even more out of your walking:

  1. Keep a journal so you know how much and how long you have been walking.
  2. Find a walking buddy. If you have a partner who is counting on you, you're less likely to skip your walk.
  3. Increase the amount of time or distance you are walking gradually. Move a little faster or go a little farther.You can increase the middle portion of your walk every 2-3 weeks until you are walking 2-1/2 to 3 miles in 45-50 minutes. This may take 3-4 months to accomplish.
  4. Change the "where, when and how" of your walking program. Vary your route, time and distance to keep it interesting.
  5. Reward yourself for your efforts. Treat yourself to new shoes, a movie or some other reward when you reach a new milestone.
  6. If the weather is bad, try the mall.
  7. Join a mall-walking club. Whenever you need a boost, look for someone else making tracks through the mall and join in!
  8. Think about how good you feel after your walk.

Guidelines for Stretching

  • Stretch to the point of tension (pulling, not pain.)
  • Stretch slowly without bouncing.
  • Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat each stretch 3-5 times.

Achilles and calf stretch
Hold onto a counter top or place your hands in front of you on a wall. Place one foot in front of the other as though taking a step forward. Lean forward bending the knee of your front leg and keeping your back leg straight with the heel down. You should feel a stretch on the back of the calf of the extended leg. Hold the position, then repeat with the other leg.

Sitting hamstring stretch
Sitting on the edge of stable chair, position on leg with the knee bent and foot flat on the floor. Extend the other leg straight in front with the heel resting on the floor and toes pointed toward the ceiling. With arms outstretched and hands overlapping, slowly lean forward at the hips toward the toes of the outstretched leg, keeping a straight back. You should feel a stretch on the back of the thigh of the extended leg. Lean only to the point where you feel the stretch. Hold the position, the repeat with the other leg.

Groin stretch
Hold onto a counter top or other sturdy surface. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Slowly bend one knee, shifting weight onto the bent leg. You may place your hands on the thigh of the bent leg for added support. You should feel a stretch on the inside of the thigh of the opposite extended leg. Hold the position, then repeat with the other leg.

Quadriceps stretch
Place a hand on a table or wall for balance. Grab your opposite ankle with your free hand and pull it toward the buttocks. Pull just until you fell the stretch on the top of the thigh of your bent leg. Hold the position, then repeat with the other leg.

Horizontal shoulder stretch
Stretch your arm across your chest with the opposite hand on your elbow. Feel the stretch in the back by the shoulder blade, arm and shoulder. Hold the position, then repeat with the other arm.

Triceps stretch
Reach your arm straight up, then drop your hand behind your back. With the opposite hand on the elbow of your bent arm, pull the bent arm toward the opposite side. Feel the stretch along the back of the upper arm. Hold the position, then repeat with the other arm.

Resources for More Information

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