When was the last time you exercised or went for a walk? The guidelines recommended by the American Cardiac Association suggest that 30 minutes a day is the minimum you need to stay in good cardiovascular shape.
If you've been inconsistent with your routine, or if you haven't been faithful and need to start over again, walking is a great first step.
Read on to see some of the benefits of walking and how you can easily work exercise back into your life:
Your heart deserves it. Walking is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise. It helps to keep off weight, reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure — all of which contribute to things like heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular disease.
Lunchtime is a nice opportunity to work it in. Some 20 to 40 minutes per day is all you really need to stay fit. Most working Americans take between 30 and 60 minutes for lunch — a perfect opportunity to squeeze in a walk if you have other activities or responsibilities occupy your time at the tail end of the day.
Walking is a low-impact activity and generally not considered to be a dangerous one compared to running or other pieces of gym equipment. Your body is used to your own stride and gait pattern as opposed to the somewhat odd positioning you may find yourself in on a Stairmaster.
It's a major deterrent to osteoporosis. Upright, weight-bearing activities such as walking is one of the easiest ways to slow or reverse osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become brittle and susceptible to fracture. Daily walking reduces the risk of developing the disorder — an especially important point if you're a female over the age of 50.
You'll stay sharper, longer. Alongside diet, numerous research studies have proven that walking is one of the best ways to maintain brain function and helps fight the initiation and progression of Alzheimer's disease.
If you're ready to get started exercising, below you'll find some pointers about how to optimize your workouts:
Bring a friend. Walking with a partner helps the time to pass quickly. You may find yourself walking longer than if you went alone. On the days where you don't feel like exercising, your partner can be your motivation.
Brisk is better. Walking at a normal, leisurely pace is not as likely to yield the cardiovascular benefits than if you were to speed it up just a notch. Normal walking speed is generally considered to be an efficient mechanism with a low-energy requirement to maintain. Thus, you'll have to walk with a purpose when you're out exercising.
Keep the radius short at first. Many people make the mistake of going for too long a walk too soon. You may feel good for the first twenty minutes, but tire quickly after that. Make sure you're not too far from home in case you run out of gas.
Think about purchasing a walking shoe. Walking shoes can be considerably different than running shoes. Walking shoes bend in the middle of the shoe to accommodate the foot during a normal walking stride.
Running shoes bend closer to the toe, as most runners spend the bulk of the time pushing off the toe. Improper footwear can lead to plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis — which can be notoriously difficult to solve.
Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes "On the Mend" weekly. Questions may be submitted to Joe by email at email@example.com.