No matter how far you go or how long it takes, walking is great exercise.
It also makes it incredibly easy to start a new exercise regime—it’s as simple as lacing up your shoes.
But there are things you can do to maximize the experience.
Phillip Adler, PhD, a licensed athletic trainer and operations manager for Spectrum Health Orthopedic Outreach, has some suggestions on how to get the most out of any walking program.
The first step: Be careful when you’re starting a new plan.
“You may need to consult with your primary care physician if you have any underlying health conditions, but generally walking is a good way to start exercising for better health,” Dr. Adler said. “And if we’re talking about a walking program and you have a sedentary lifestyle, walking could be just enough for improving your health.”
Walking is particularly healthy for muscles in the feet, calves, hips and ankles, but it’s also good for cardiovascular health.
Dr. Adler offered these five tips for getting the most out of your walking program.
Make a decision to stick to walking as an exercise. Even walking around the inside of your home can get your steps in.
“You don’t need a bike or a treadmill, you can just get up and walk,” Dr. Adler said. “This may be a great start for some people. It will give them a sense of accomplishment.”
2. Set reasonable and achievable goals
Start with a time and distance that’s attainable. As you accomplish those goals, make incremental increases. The frequency of your walks, as well as the length and speed, will depend on your individual goals and abilities. You can always increase your distance and walk for longer periods as your ability improves.
3. Prepare properly
Hydration, nutrition and comfortable footwear are critical. For any exercise program, always make hydration and nutrition a priority. “You have to put the right fuel in the gas tank to keep you going,” Dr. Adler said.
And footwear? Wear proper walking shoes. “You really shouldn’t walk for exercise in flip flops,” he said.
4. Challenge yourself
Don’t be afraid to push yourself—go a little farther and a little faster as you get into your program. Even if you get your walk in for the day, find other creative ways to increase your walking capacity. Park far away from the grocery store entrance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
“But don’t think you have to go out and be a hero,” Dr. Adler said. “You just need to challenge yourself.”
5. Celebrate and share your success
Tell a friend or family member about your accomplishments. Post something on social media.
“It’s fine to celebrate your accomplishments,” the doctor said. “Positive support will help you, motivate you and keep you going.”