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Walking for Fitness

Getting Started

  • Start exercising: Many exercise programs say to talk to your doctor before starting. Certain people with specific medical conditions may want to check with their doctor before becoming physically active, however; most people can start a simple walking program without problems. Even those recovering from heart attacks are encouraged to walk treadmills in cardiac rehabilitation programs.
  • Comfortable shoes: Only one thing is worth investing in when it comes to walking, and that's a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Even athletic shoes that are more than 6 months old may not have enough cushioning to support you. You may choose either athletic shoes for sidewalks and roads or light hiking shoes (rugged walking shoes) if you venture out on trails.
    • Select shoes especially designed for walking, which will be labeled as such. Running shoes are a second choice. Cross training shoes are a third best choice.
    • You want a shoe that bends easily through the ball of the foot but remains fairly firm. A low heel works best, which is why a running shoe with thick cushioning in the heel is not the best choice.
    • Avoid high tops unless they are specifically designed as walking or hiking styles.
  • Warm up: Spend 30 seconds each on five simple warm-up moves:
    • Ankle circles: Stand on one foot and lift the other off the ground. Slowly flex that raised ankle through its full range of motion, making circles with the toes. Do six to eight circles in each direction. Switch feet and repeat.
    • Leg swings: Stand on one leg and swing the other loosely from the hip, front to back, in a relaxed, unforced motion. Your foot should swing no higher than a foot or so off the ground. Do 15-20 swings on each leg.
    • Pelvic loops: Place your hands on your hips with your knees gently bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your body upright and make 10 slow circles with your hips, pushing them gently forward, left, back, and right. Reverse directions and repeat.
    • Arm circles: Hold both arms straight out from your sides, palms down, making yourself into the letter T. Make 10-12 slow backward circles with your hands, starting small and finishing with large circles using your entire arm. Shake your arms out and repeat with 10-12 forward circles.
    • Hula-hoop jumps: Hop in place on both feet. Keep your head and shoulders facing forward. Twist your feet and lower body left, then right, back and forth with each of 20 hops.
  • Observe basic safety while walking outside. Watch for traffic all around you. Always walk on sidewalks or on the left side of the street facing traffic if there is no sidewalk. Carry an ID and a cell phone or change for a pay phone. Use caution if wearing headphones (perhaps use just one earpiece so you can hear traffic and other noises around you). Make yourself visible in low-light situations by wearing reflective gear, such as vests with reflective tape are especially visible.
Last Reviewed 11/20/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Walking for Fitness:

Walking for Fitness - Patient Experience

Were you able to lose weight by walking? What were your methods?

Walking as Aerobic Exercise

Walking is a popular aerobic activity. It is easy to do, you don't need special equipment, and it can be done almost anywhere. To get aerobic benefit, you must walk briskly -- fast enough to make your pulse and breathing increase, but not so fast that you can't talk comfortably.

Some people start by walking daily during lunch or after work. Others start more gradually, with a 10- to 30-minute walk every other day. You can add up exercise time over the course of a day or week. Walking 10 minutes, 3 times a day is roughly equivalent to walking 30 minutes, once a day. Build up your walking routine bit by bit, and aim for at least 2½ hours a week of brisk walking.


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