Be Active

Be Active: Start Walking!

Walking is a great way to get active without putting a lot of stress on your body. In fact, a study from the University of Colorado suggests that walking slowly is the best way for obese and overweight people to burn calories and lose weight.

Below are a few suggestions to help you walk your way to better health.

To avoid injury, you will want to increase the length of your walks by no more than 10 to 20 percent from week to week.

If you ever want to see how far you're walking, measure your route with your car's odometer. Choose a safe route and wear reflective clothing if you are walking after dusk. Be sure to keep one ear free to hear traffic if you are listening to music.

Count how many steps you take. If you are taking 30 to 40 steps in 20 seconds, you are getting health benefits. To tone and hone your body, you need to exceed 45 steps in 20 seconds. (Every time a foot hits the ground counts as a step.)

Use this link to map your route.

WEEKS 1-3: THE FOUNDATION

  • As with every walk, start with a five-minute stroll and then your stretches. For the first two weeks, walk three times a week for 10 minutes (this doesn't include warm-up time) The goal is to build up to 20 minutes, three times a week by the end of the third week.
  • For the first few days, focus on keeping your chin up. Once you've mastered that, focus on a tight tummy and on keeping your shoulders down and relaxed. End each workout with the same stretches you started with.

Check out this 12-week beginner's schedule for walking.

WEEKS 4-9: THE WORKOUT

  • Your goal - in addition to increasing the time from 20 to 40 minutes and adding a fourth day a week - will be to build speed. To do this, continue thinking about posture, but also focus on landing on your heel, rolling to your toe, and then pushing off with your toe.
  • Once that becomes automatic, focus on squeezing your butt as you push off your toes. By the end of the ninth week, you should be walking for 30 minutes, four times a week at a faster pace.

WEEKS 10-12: THE CHALLENGE

  • Over the next three weeks, build up to five days a week and walk for 50 to 60 minutes.
  • To further increase your speed, focus on your arm swing, taking care to have an unclenched, loose hand. Then concentrate on walking a line.
  • Once you've mastered the footwork, try "the interval," a marathoner's training tool, in which you vary your speed to increase results.
  • Here's how it works: After walking 10 minutes at a steady pace, do five sets of intervals for a total of 15 minutes. For your first interval, walk as fast as you can for 90 seconds. Then recover for 90 seconds by walking at a leisurely pace. Repeat four times. Walk at a steady pace for the rest of your workout. Cool down with a five-minute stroll.

Source: Better Homes & Gardens; Issue: June, 1997; Author: Michele Meyer

Additional Links:

Check Your Health newsletter on walking

Track your progress with the Check Your Health Activity Tracker

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Figure your Body Mass index (BMI) using your weight and height.
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