Walking for most people is the easiest way to get in better shape. It’s a great all round exercise that employs the biggest muscle groups in the body and its an activity that most of us can do. Walking is good for the heart and lungs, and reduces joint and spinal pain over time. Walking requires
no special equipment facilities or memberships and you learned to do it a long time ago so theres no instruction needed. I recommend walking to all my patients who want to be more active.
First, the best way to start walking is to do it every day. I recommend picking something very easy like walking around the block in your neighborhood. This means you don’t have to go anywhere because you’re there already. Pick a distance that you can do easily without getting out of breath or feeling sore the next day, this means you are starting at a level you already can do. For some of us that might be a relatively long distance like a mile. For others it might only be a couple of mailboxes then head back home. The important thing is to pick a distance you can easily achieve.
Next, walk that distance every day for a week. Commit the time to do it. Maybe get up early and walk in the morning, or take a walk at lunch time or even first thing when you come home. Plan for bad weather by keeping an umbrella by the door. Bring your dog if you have one. Encourage your spouse or another family member to join you. See now you are adding family time! If you’re more the solitary type, listen to music or a book on tape.
Once you get to the end of the week, re-evaluate how you feel. Do you have any aches and pains? Any soreness? If you feel like the past week was an effort, if you are sore or if you have achy joints, consider reducing your distance by 10% and continue walking at that level for the next week. Keep reducing weekly if needed to find your base level and build from there. If you feel OK, continue walking the next week but add 10% to your distance. Depending on how far you go, this might be 100 yards or 20 feet.
This strategy works for two reasons: First it gets you in the habit because you are doing it daily. Second, it gives your body time to adapt so you will not get sore or injured and feel like giving up. You can even advance by 5% per week if that works better for you. The important thing is to have a plan and commit the time you need to get it done. s
Resist the temptation to double your distance, even if you feel great, keep it to 10%. Take your time and focus on the long term. Once you are getting up to some considerable distance like a mile, take two days off a week and continue to advance your distance weekly on the days you are walking. Soon you will be walking several miles a week and feeling great. Add rest days as needed, focus on the total miles per week.
Keep a log of your miles so you will stay motivated. Either a paper chart or a tracker on your phone can be used to do this. Think about entering a 5k or a 10 K to give yourself a goal to work towards.
This strategy works well for walking, but it also works well for any type of exercise program. If you prefer to ride your bike, the 10% rule works for that too. Lifting weights can also be progressed this way either by adding weight or repetitions weekly to your routine.
If you need help starting a walking program, call us and we will be happy to help.
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