Last updated on April 13, 2020
Just about every doctor I’ve talked to says that walking is about the healthiest activity you can do except for swimming. Fortunately, I have the luxury of belonging to a University athletic program that has great facilities for both and a heated pool in the winter. But many people either can’t afford to belong to a club or program and they have a huge difficulty in getting motivated. It may seem facile to write a short guide to walking, because anyone can walk, right? Well, yes and no. Anyone can walk if they’re in normal health, but do they actually do it regularly? The answer is oftentimes a resounding, “NO.” Walking briskly exercises your joints, strengthens bones and back, and it has a decided effect on lowering blood pressure and building stamina and overall strength.
After my hip replacement surgery I could walk only short distances for about four weeks. After that time I still had to force myself to get out the front door and go to the park across the street and take a brisk stroll two or three times around the outer periphery of the grounds. I don’t think I really walked more than about a mile and a half at any time. I had just gotten out of the habit I had so carefully cultivated before all my hip problems. I had to begin getting back into them if I wanted to feel like my old self and begin loosing some of the weight I had put on around my middle from sheer inertia. The basics I’ll be laying out are not to be done in exactly the order listed. They’re all important. It doesn’t matter that you purchase a pedometer first or get up a walking group first. The important thing is to commit to a routine and stick to it almost religiously. Websites like Nutshell Nutrition recommends that walking should be regularly considered as a good exercise. It is also the easiest and most accessible form of exercise for busy people.
There are some really simple basics that anyone beginning a serious walking or exercise routine should follow, and I mean strictly follow them. The first is to decide exactly how many times you’re going to walk per week, write it down and stick to it! Don’t do this and I can guarantee that walking will not become part of your daily life. In fact, not doing this will absolutely ensure that any resolutions made about walking will be broken in short order. Once a routine has been established, put it up on the refrigerator door or somewhere prominent so it can’t be ignored. Start off slowly, perhaps setting a schedule to walk at least four times a week for at least two miles. This is slow and it isn’t too taxing. Nor will it eat into the daily schedule for work and family and friends. Walk for four days, doing two miles a day, and it will only take about 45 minutes to an hour of time. Start off at a moderate pace, the same rate you walk when going across a parking lot, for instance. Later you can speed up and even use some wrist weights on your arms when swinging them. This adds to the energy burned and also makes walking a more overall workout.
Try to schedule walks at the same times every day so that you know when it’s going to be done, and everything else can fall in around it. If you work, try to walk in the mornings or afternoons outside office hours. If you live in a less than desirable neighborhood, get in the car and drive to the nearest park to take your stroll. That’s what I’ve begun doing. But the thing that’s important is to establish a time you can walk each day and make it sacrosanct, so that nothing else can interfere. This walking is about health, and though it can be a lot of fun, it’s paramount to a healthy life if no other exercise is available.
The next thing you should do is to purchase a small headset radio so that the time will go faster. Many people just enjoy hearing the birds and wind in the trees, but if you get bored easily, by all means, carry something with you that will distract from the monotony of repetitive movement. It is also crucial that you purchase a small pedometer, which measures the steps taken. Many pedometers now measure heart rate and calories burned too. Some even have a bit of instruction on how to begin, how to increase speed, and how to set goals using the instrument. These are absolutely marvelous tools because they give a walker something to measure progress with and also indicate how fast your heart is having to work to maintain a brisk pace. That rate should go down a bit even as you speed up the routines, because the heart is becoming more efficient and much stronger. That’s the beauty of walking. It is a workout for the organs. It also helps flush toxins through the system that accumulate through the day from medications, inertia, or just from oxidation of our cells.
Last, I have also found that walking with a group is one of the best motivators available. Even if there is just one person walking with you, if they’re as motivated as you are, the walks will be much more fun and less like routines. Some cities have web resources where people can contact walking groups and set up schedules together. Use google or another search engine to type in your search and see what comes up. Church bulletin boards and gyms at colleges and universities are good places to tack a notice up and begin a group. Meet together when a few people have signed up and decide on a time that’s most convenient for everyone. Then all there is to do is start!
As I stated at the beginning all of the things mentioned are important. If you begin walking alone with a pedometer first, fine. Later on, get a radio and establish a walking group. If you have a group but no pedometer, that’s fine too. Purchase one when you can. Nothing is set in stone here. But all the suggestions I’ve made will add up to keep you on a serious walking regimen that will become more and more fun as it becomes a part of your daily life. The effect on mental health as well as on the body is incredible.