In my last post we looked at eight reasons why you should walk for your health: to lose weight; for heart and brain health; to get happy endorphins flowing, for more energy and general well-being. Hopefully, you were inspired to include walking as part of your daily activities. Today, we are going to talk about what to do to get started walking.
There are a few important things your should do to get started with a walking routine that will lead to a healthier life:
Check with Your Doctor
Starting any kind of exercise regimen should include a physical check up by your doctor. You want to make sure that what you have planned will be good for you – and not detrimental in any way.
Chances are your doctor will be completely supportive of your plan, but s/he may want to check your heart, your blood pressure and other vitals before you begin just to make sure your body can handle increased physical activity.
He may also request that you return for a follow up after a specific period of time, to make sure everything is going well.
Start Slow and Steady
For anyone starting a new physical exercise routine, starting out slow and steady is a good idea. It is important to let your body adjust to the rhythm and energy you will be exerting. This is particularly true if you are not accustomed to exercise, are terribly out of shape, and/or have been living a sedentary life for quite a while.
Start as slow as necessary – just be sure that you are moving your body a little each day, and that you are committed to increasing your time or distance every three or four days.
Listen to your body. Trying to do too much too fast can create serious problems. You could strain muscles, have muscle cramps, feel weak from too much exertion . . . and also take away your motivation to continue walking daily.
Do what you can each day – be persistent – stay with it. I promise, you will begin to enjoy the process and your body will thank you.
Have a Schedule that Works for You
For most people it is a good idea to have a walking schedule. Each day after you have finished your walk, check it off. This reinforces the feeling of satisfaction that comes from having accomplished something important.
You may want to buy a special calendar for this purpose and write out your walking goals for each week.
Set up your schedule – start slow and gradually increase how far you walk or how long you walk. You can choose which of those things you want to use as your measure. For me, it is how long I walk.
If you are a complete novice at walking (and exercise), start with 5-10 minutes at a time for 3 to 5 days. Then, increase it by 2-3 minutes and gradually add more days.
Continue until you reach a level that seems a good length of time for you. My recommendation would be to work up to 30 minutes if at all possible; with 15-20 minutes at least 5 days a week as your minimum goal.
A Healthy Diet Is Part of the Plan
Walking is wonderful for your health, but you should also be eating healthy foods as part of your new routine. Even if you walk everyday (which is great), but continue to fill up on fried, fatty, sugary, processed foods, it will be more difficult to sustain the energy you need to walk regularly and for any extended period of time.
Feed your body fresh, whole foods, lean protein for energy, fruits and vegetables, and lots of whole grains. These foods will keep you feeling satisfied, they are good for your body, and provide the energy needed for walking (and everything else you want to do).
Do what you need to do the get started walking. Then, plan your new walking routine beginning today – and stay with it for the long-term!