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Fitness: Walking for Wellness

Introduction

Walking is one of the easiest ways to get the exercise you need to stay healthy.

Experts recommend at least 2½ hours of moderate activity (such as brisk walking, brisk cycling, or yard work) a week.footnote 1 It's fine to walk in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.

  • If you're worried about how brisk walking might affect your health, talk with your doctor before you start a walking program.
  • Start with a short-term goal. For example, walk for 5 or 10 minutes every day. Or increase your number of steps by 300 to 500 each day.
  • After you've made walking a habit, set a longer-term goal. You may want to set a goal of walking briskly for at least 30 minutes a day or work up to 10,000 steps a day. You can try to do this 5 days a week or more.
  • You can use a phone app or wear a pedometer to track your steps each day.
  • To stay motivated, find a walking partner, such as a family member, friend, or coworker. Daily dog walks are also a great way to keep up your walking routine.

How can you make a walking program part of your life?

Think of walking as an easy way to burn calories and stay fit while you go about your daily routine. You can make walking an important part of your life by getting friends and family to join you and by finding new ways to put steps in your day.

Walk with others

  • Ask family members, friends, and coworkers to join you. Set goals together.
  • Join a walking group or club.
  • Set a goal to take part in an organized fitness walk.
  • Walk a dog every day.
  • Plan family outings around walks together. Being physically active with kids sets an example they'll follow as they grow older.

Add steps whenever you can

  • Schedule walks on your daily calendar.
  • Use a phone app or buy a pedometer. They count how many steps you take. The first time you use it, count how many steps you normally take in a day. Track your activity every day, and set a goal for increasing the number of steps each day. At first, try to add 300 to 500 steps to your day. Then work toward 2,000 more steps a day. A good long-term goal is to get 10,000 steps a day.
  • Instead of watching TV or going out to eat, go out for a walk.
  • At work, get up and move around once an hour.
  • When possible, walk to the grocery store, doctor appointments, work, school, or shopping. You could walk a lap around the grocery store before you start shopping.
  • Park your car farther away from work or other places you're going.
  • Walk around your neighborhood or around a park.
  • Walk during TV commercials.

Be safe

  • Know your surroundings. Walk in a well-lighted, safe place.
  • Carry a cell phone for emergencies.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and socks that cushion your feet.
  • Pay attention to your walking surface. Use sidewalks and paths.
  • If you usually walk outside and the weather is bad, take comfortable shoes to the mall and walk several laps inside.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you are active. This is very important when it's hot out and when you do intense exercise. Take a water bottle with you when you walk.

References

Citations

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine

Current as ofDecember 7, 2017


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