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Walking Works for Everyone

Fit people may think walking is "too easy" to keep them fit. Overweight people may wonder if they really can become trim by walking. Older people and those with medical conditions such as osteoporosis or heart disease may wonder if walking is safe.

In fact, walking works for people of all ages, fitness levels, weights, and health conditions.

Appreciate the benefits

Walking is easy because you can do it almost anywhere and at any time. It also offers a range of health benefits. Walking:

  • Gives you energy and improves your stamina for everyday activities

  • Improves your mood and reduces stress

  • Strengthens bones

  • Helps you relax and sleep better

  • Reduces your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes

  • Tones your muscles, including your heart

  • Increases the number of calories you burn, helping you lose and keep off weight

Get started

Get your doctor's go-ahead before you start to walk if you've been sedentary for some time, have dizzy spells, are a smoker, are overweight, or have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, or another chronic condition.

Once you're ready to go, keep the following in mind:

  • Choose a safe place to walk. Find a partner or group of people to walk with. Your partner should be able to walk with you on the same schedule and at the same speed.

  • Wear walking shoes with good arch support and thick, flexible soles.

  • Wear clothes that are right for the season. Cotton clothes for the summer help keep you cool by absorbing sweat and allowing it to evaporate. Layer your clothing in the winter, and as you warm up, take off some layers.

  • Do light stretching after you walk.

  • Try to walk at least three times a week.

  • To avoid stiff or sore muscles or joints, start slowly with a short walk of about 10 minutes. Over several weeks, begin walking faster, going farther, and walking for longer periods of time.

  • Begin your walk by warming up to increase your heart rate. Do this by walking at a normal pace for five minutes. After you've warmed up, walk briskly for 30 to 60 minutes. When your brisk walk is done, cool down by walking slowly for five minutes.

  • After you walk, gently stretch your legs and back while your muscles are warm to prevent stiffness and increase flexibility.

For best results, use good walking form by following these guidelines:

  • Maintain good posture, with your chin up and your shoulders back.

  • Relax your shoulders.

  • Breathe deeply, at a steady rhythm.

  • Keep your hips even.

  • Point your knees and feet forward.

  • Walk with a full stride, landing on your heel, then rolling your weight toward your toe.

  • Swing your arms in pace with your legs. Be sure you're moving your arms and legs briskly.

Stick with a routine

Now that you've started walking, you'll want to get the most out of your exercise. Using a walking log can keep you motivated and also give you a way to track your improvement.