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June 2019

Walk This Way: How to Get Started with a Walking Program 

Walking is the ideal workout for many people. It’s easy, accessible, inexpensive, and virtually injury-free. 

Besides helping you lose or maintain weight, a regular walking program can help lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and osteoporosis. You should see a health care provider before you begin walking if you have a chronic condition or if you’re older than age 40 and have been inactive. But you’re ready to start once you’ve taken that precaution.

Close-up of person's feet in running shoes, running

Get equipped

All you need for walking is a good, supportive pair of shoes. Walking shoes should be lightweight and breathable, with a well-cushioned heel (where you land as you walk). When selecting a shoe, test its flexibility by trying to bend it with your hands—bendable shoes help your foot easily roll forward and push off with the toes. Also look for good arch support and nonskid soles. But the most important thing is that you wear a shoe that fits. 

Tip: Try on shoes with the socks you plan to wear while walking. 

Start easy

Always do less than you think you can when you begin; your muscles and heart need to get used to the movement. 

Initially, try to start out walking 15 minutes a day. If that’s more than you can do right now, do what you can. Focus on sitting less and moving more—even a few minutes of physical activity is beneficial. 

Don’t worry if you last 1 mile or less. It takes time to build strength and endurance. 

Be calm before you start

It may be tempting to work off anger or other strong emotions at the gym, but a study in the journal Circulation concludes that it greatly increases your risk for a heart attack. Looking at more than 12,000 heart attack cases in 52 countries, researchers found that people who were angry or emotionally upset in the hour before they exercised were more than 3 times as likely to suffer a heart attack. Exercise is generally beneficial for your heart, but make sure you are in a good emotional place before working out.

Online Medical Reviewer: Haines, Cindy, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/19/2019
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