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Create a Walking Plan for Fitness

Updated on September 9, 2012

Fitness Can Be Fun and Easy

Have you seen some of these exercise infomercials lately? It seems that the latest fitness craze is nothing more than a form of punishment. We all want to get in shape, but does it have to be an ‘all or nothing’ approach? Does fitness have to be extremely, ludicrously and intensely difficult? I think not, these maximum effort exercise programs are difficult to keep up with over a long period of time and the intensity can bring about an injury if you are not concentrating on your form. Life is difficult enough, becoming physically fit should not feel like a punishment.

You can achieve good fitness results by incorporating walking into your weekly routine. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends adults get 150 minutes per week of moderate activity (such as brisk walking) and some form of muscle strengthening activity at least 2 days per week. Walking is an easy and low cost way to meet these guidelines. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, increases your heart rate, which in turn increases oxygen to your blood, this increased blood flow is extremely beneficial. Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure and lower harmful cholesterol. It can help you achieve a healthy weight which reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Before beginning a walking plan you should speak about it with your doctor, particularly if you have any serious health conditions or have joint or orthopedic problems. Once that is out of the way you can get started.

To begin a walking plan, first make sure you have a good pair of walking sneakers and socks and wear comfortable clothing. If you walk outdoors protect your skin from harmful UV rays, wear a hat and apply sunscreen. If you walk in a wooded area, use bug spray or wear long sleeves and pants to cover your skin while you walk to protect you from insects, also, remember to check for ticks before you enter your home. You may enjoy your walk more if you have a walking buddy, or walk with your dog. If you are going to walk alone, you music can help you stay entertained and you will find yourself walking to the beat, so put together a playlist of your favorite high energy tunes. If you decide to listen to music while you walk, however, pay attention to your surroundings and do not set your music so loud that you are unable to hear what is happening around you.

Now that the basics are done, you should next set a reasonable goal for how far or how long you intend to walk. This is where many people make mistakes. When you start a walking plan, try not to set a lofty goal. If you have not exercised in a long time or are not yet in good physical condition, be realistic. You might want to begin with a ten or fifteen minute walk every other day. As you get stronger, usually in a week or two, you can increase the time by ten minutes or so until you reach 30 to 45 minutes of uninterrupted walking.

Now how to walk, this seems silly, but it is important to walk correctly. Be aware of your posture. Good posture helps your body decompress the spine and organs, particularly if you sit hunched over your computer for many hours each day. As you walk remember to stand up tall, breathe deeply as you open your ribcage and move your shoulders back, let your arms swing naturally as you walk and if you must carry something, make sure the weight is evenly distributed to avoid neck and back pain.

After you have been walking for a few weeks, you may want to introduce intervals to your walks. Interval walking can burn more calories and can even lower blood sugar levels faster than non-interval walking. Interval walking is simply dividing your walk into separate blocks of activity. Begin with a Warm-Up Block for the first 2 to 3 minutes, walking at a moderate pace, you should be able to speak and walk at the same time, then switch to the Energy Block, here you walk a little faster and you are moving your arms as you walk, speaking should be more difficult, but not impossible, walk this way for about two minutes. Then return to the Warm-Up Block for 2 to 3 minutes, afterwards switch to the High Energy Block, here you walk even faster and with more power than before, walk this way for two minutes, then return back to the Warm Up Block for 2 to 3 minutes, then switch to the Super-High Energy Block, here you are speed walking as if someone is after you, try to walk this fast for two minutes, then return to the Warm-Up Block. Repeat these intervals for as long as you walk. It is great to introduce interval walking when you find yourself becoming a bored with your routine.

As with any new habit you are trying to incorporate into your routine, staying motivated is critical. Changing the music you listen to every few weeks can keep thing fresh. Varying your walking routes changes the scenery. Take a look at a map of your local area to get a birds’ eye view of different routes you can take. If you are competitive, create a walking log and track your progress. A pedometer is a simple and inexpensive way of helping you keep track of the number of steps taken. It takes approximately 10,000 steps per day to satisfy the United States’ Surgeon General’s recommendation for achieving good fitness. 10,000 steps is about the equivalent of five miles. Some people stay motivated by setting a goal of joining a 5K Walk/Run. Whatever you do to stay motivated is good, as long as it works.

Consistency is the key to maximizing the benefits of your walking plan. If you have a busy day and are unable to devote a block of time to walk, take a few short five or ten minute walks throughout the day. You will still enjoy the benefits even if the walk is broken up. There are many opportunities throughout the day to sneak in few extra steps, start looking for them. Walking is an excellent form of exercise, enjoyable, easy and not too stressful on the body.

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