How to Start a Walking Program

Monday February 25, 2013

Benefits of Walking:

  • Builds aerobic fitness
  • Builds strength, energy, and coordination
  • Reduce risk of falls and fractures
  • Improves mood, relieves depression, and stress
  • Increase life expectancy
  • Decrease risk of chronic disease

Benefits of Group Programs:

  • Walkers interact with neighbors, contributing to a sense of community
  • Establishes independence for older adults, due to less reliance on cars
  • People are more likely to continue physical activity or get involved in physical activity if they have social support.

Safety Tips on Walking:

  • Always walk on designated sidewalks and paths
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic
  • Cross only at corners of sidewalk, look both ways
  • Dress to be seen, it is easier for traffic to notice you that way
  • Be prepared in case of emergency, have emergency contacts on hand
  • Know route
  • Watch for animals in neighborhoods!

Prevention of Dehydration:

  • Drink water before, during, and after exercise (8-10 glasses a day)
  • While walking have a water container on hand.

Starting the Program:

Preparation before walking:

  1. Consult with a physician to be assured that a walking program is possible!
  2. Make sure that you wear loose fitting clothes to allow room for movement.  A hat to protect you from the sun, sunglasses if possible to protect your eyes.  You would want to wear sunscreen on sunny days.  As for shoes, you would want them to fit well, but should be a size bigger than normal.  They should be flexible and flat.
  3. You may purchase a pedometer.  It’s a device that records your daily steps and distance.  It also can be used for motivation! And is usually worn on the side of your hip.

Walking:

      1.   If you are a sedentary individual especially over the age of 55 you would want to  

start of slow and easy gradually increasing you time and pace as you progress.  Just walk out the door, walk for 10 minutes and walk back.  Do that for a week.  Then add 5 minutes to your walk the following week.  This way you develop a stable routine.

  1. Watch your posture.  Stand straight as possible, eyes forward, chin up, relaxed

shoulders, and tighten in your stomach and buttocks. Arms should be at 90 degrees, kept close in the body in swinging motion while walking.  Your heel should strike the ground first pushing off with your toes.  Take smaller steps.

  1. Incorporate a warm-up and some stretching in your program.  To warm-up, walk a few minutes at a decent pace.  After walking for a few minutes, stretch.  Stretch your back, legs, ankle, arms, head, neck, hips, and core area.  Then begin walking.
  2. Incorporate a cool-down in your program.  After walking slow your pace down.  Walk an additional few minutes to bring your heart rate back down.  Then stretch again.
  3. Now that you are in the groove of establishing a program for yourself, ask yourself, what are my goals? Am I walking for general health, cardiovascular improvement or fitness, or for weight loss?  This will determine the overall pace or intensity of your program.  During these programs your pace should be based on your Target Heart Rate Zone also known as THR.  To determine your THR you will take your age subtract it from 220 and multiply that number by the different percentages that fit your training zone.
    1. General Health- 30 minutes a day.  The training zone will be 50-60% of maximum heart rate.
    2. Cardiovascular Fitness- 3 to 4 times a week 20-30 minutes at a fast pace.  The training zone will be 60-70% of maximum heart rate.
    3.  Weight Loss- 45-60 minutes a day at a fast pace, minimum 5 days a week.  The training zone will be 70-80% of maximum heart rate.

So, now that you have the information and the motivation GET UP! GET STARTED!