How to Start—and Stick with—a Walking Workout

From Better Homes and Gardens

Scientists have yet to discover a magic path to great health. But two things will get you pretty close: your right leg and your left. Put one in front of the other for a few hours a week, and you can improve your cholesterol levels, prevent weight gain, breathe better, feel happier and reduce your risk of heart attack and breast cancer. Not bad for a skill you picked up in babyhood! Get started today with this informal plan that will help you walk your way to the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. See you outside! 

1. Begin with baby steps.

While 150 minutes of brisk walking per week is your ultimate goal, don’t let the stopwatch scare you off. At first, commit to walking every other day for 30 minutes or so. If your schedule is too packed for half-hour sessions, try taking two 15-minute walks, instead.

2. Fuel up.

A snack that combines high-fiber carbs and protein will deliver the stamina you need to keep stepping. One to two hours before you head out, enjoy hummus on a whole-wheat pita, or a scoop of plain yogurt with fresh berries.

3. Prep your joints.

Warming up with dynamic movements loosens joints and revs circulation. Start with heel raises: Standing with feet together, lift up on your toes and extend your arms overhead; return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. Next, try toy soldiers: Stand with feet together. Keeping right leg straight, raise right foot to hip level and touch right knee with both hands. Switch sides. Repeat 30 times.

4. Reward yourself when you keep up the good work.

Once you have a week of walking under your belt, consider treating yourself to cute shoelaces or a new exercise top—a small reward for a job well done. Stay on track by setting out your exercise gear the night before a scheduled walk: keeping your sneakers in view will make you more apt to lace them up.

5. Plan for rain.

Unless you’re in the desert, showers are a sure bet. If you don’t have access to a treadmill or an indoor track, try sneaking in your steps at a mall, a museum or even a large home-improvement center. Want to brave the elements? Invest in a waterproof raincoat and a lightweight collapsible umbrella.

6. Tack on time.

As your lungs and muscles get stronger, work toward the 150-minute mark. Try extending one walk to 60 minutes, adding a few minutes to each 30-minute walk or walking 22 minutes every day. There’s no wrong way to get there.

7. Record your triumphs.

At some point, you’ll likely settle into a groove. Great! To keep life from encroaching on your regimen, grab a calendar and schedule your walks for the next few months. Every time you walk, jot down the details—how far, how long—and give yourself a pat on the back.

8. Buddy up.

Starting to feel a bit bored? Keep things fun by walking with a friend once or twice a week. Going with another person also means you’ll be less likely to skip your strolls.

9. Aim higher.

Once you reach 150 minutes a week, congratulations—you did it! Ready for a bigger challenge? Consider signing up for a 5K or 10K walk that will inspire you to push yourself and set new goals. Check your community calendar for events, or inquire at your local sporting-goods store.

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