We all know we should exercise, but many of us feel we do not have the time or we simply do not like exercising. One easy form of exercise, and one that can usually fit pretty easily into our lives, is walking. Some of the many benefits of exercise are: weight-loss, improved circulation and heart health, reduced risk of illness, and reduced risk of certain cancers. Now we just need to realize that we NEED to take care of ourselves, especially if we have others who rely on us to care for them.
As with any diet or exercise program, it is recommended that you check with your doctor first, especially if you have other health issues or symptoms. If you are not a regular exerciser and are looking to ease into it, the Mayo Clinic has a 10 week "ease into walking" plan. Basically, you walk for 15 minutes on two days the first week; walk for 15 minutes on three days in week 2; week 3 calls for increasing the walking time to 20 minutes on 3 days; week 4 also increases the time by another 5 minutes bringing it to 25 minutes on 3 days; weeks 5 and 6 increase the time to 30 minutes on 3 days; weeks 7 and 8 stay at 30 minutes, but increase the number of days to 4; and weeks 9 and 10 also stay at 30 minutes, but increase the days to 5. The times do not include warm up and cool down.
Some other tips I have:
-Find a friend to walk with or turn it into a family fitness activity and make them family walks.
-Get a GOOD pair of walking shoes. If your feet hurt, you won't want to walk. These do not need to be expensive, but should be comfortable and provide the right support to your feet and ankles. Here is a website for help in finding the right shoes.
-Stay hydrated. Drink some water before your walk and plenty afterwards. If you do not care the taste of water, there are lots of powder packets you can mix into it to improve the taste. Just remember the powders often have sugar though so be careful what you choose.
-Carry handweights and/or wear ankle weights to intensify the workout.
-Have an indoor location to walk in during inclement weather. Some schools allow walkers to walk the halls after school hours and many malls open early to accomodate walkers.
-Buy a pedometer and wear it for motivation.
-Still can't fit walking in? Try adding just a few steps at a time to your daily routine:
-Instead of using remotes (tv, DVD player, car starters, etc), walk to whatever it is and turn it on/off/change it manually.
-Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you have to go more than 3-4 floors, climb the first few flights and then take the elevator for the rest.
-Do not take the closest parking spot. Park as far as (safely) possible and walk the extra distance.
-Use a pedometer everyday. Strive to increase your steps day to day.
Personally, I find walking the most enjoyable of all exercise. It is a great "social" exercise, family activity, or solo exercise; it is whatever you need it to be. I have enjoyed walking my kids to festivals, chatting with a friend as we walk our babies, as well as peaceful nature walks by myself where I can reflect on life. However you choose to do it, just do it. Your body will thank you and those you care for will thank you too.