Get Active - Begin A Walking Program
How to Begin a Walking Program
Over the past couple of months, life has certainly changed for all of us. COVID–19 has detrimentally affected how some of us exercise. Gyms have been shut down, access to public spaces have been reduced and workplaces have been closed. As a result, you probably have found your activity level has declined dramatically or diminished altogether. You now may be looking for how to best utilize your time to increase your physical fitness.
With the increase in the amount of time you’ve spent indoors, it might be time to start getting out, and about! Most of us have heard about the “Freshman Fifteen” but now there is the “Quarantine Fifteen”, so there is no time like the present to start shedding those extra pounds that many of us have inadvertently acquired.
Beginning any type of exercise program can be daunting. Where do I start? How much do I do, and when do I know to try more? What if I overdo it? If you’re new to exercise, or haven’t done much in a while, starting a walking program is a great place to start. It also allows you to continue practicing social distancing.
After two weeks of consistently maintaining your walking program you’ll start to notice improved energy, lower blood pressure and improved strength and endurance in your legs . A consistent walking program will also prepare you to start other forms of more challenging exercises. Weight loss will occur, but you will need to be faithful to the program to enable working up to the proper intensity – but we’ll get to that.
How to Start:
Get to know YOU! Before moving forward, you’ll need to understand your overall fitness level. If it’s been awhile since you’ve been active with an exercise program, this might take some detective work. Avoid thoughts like “well I used to walk this much”.
In the past 3-4 weeks, what was the longest walk you went on, without stopping? Think about activities that you have been able to participate in recently where you have walked and how you felt during and afterwards. Considering these factors, decide on a conservative time that you know you can handle. You want to knock that first walk out of the park, so select a time that you know you’ll succeed at.
A general guide for beginners: 10-15 minutes daily or 70-105 minutes a week.
Start small but set big goals. Remember to be realistic! The first thing you’ll want to do is grab a pen and calendar or your phone and put together your walking schedule. Think of this as your road map to success. Mark down the times during the day when you will complete your walks. If you’re a beginner and your goal is 10-15 minutes, know that you can split up your walks into smaller intervals daily to start. This is useful if you’re having trouble getting the 10-15 minutes at once, or further down the line if you find you’ve plateaued with your progress. As you become more comfortable with your time, begin to increase your walking time by 5-minute increments.
Not everyone is going to have the same walking goals. The goals depend on whether you’re walking for general exercise benefits, weight loss, or cardiovascular fitness. Once you’ve worked up to 30-minute walks, here are the general guidelines depending on your fitness goal .
General fitness: 30 min 5-7 days a week at a comfortable pace
Cardiovascular: 20-30 min 3-4 days a week at very fast pace
Weight loss: 45-60 min 5 days a week at a moderate pace
These are long term goals. You will have to slowly work your way up to your fitness goal. Stick with your 5-minute progressions weekly. Once you reach your goal continue to challenge yourself with slow and steady increases.
Be mindful of how you are walking during your walks. Try to maintain an upright posture. Keep your head up so you can be mindful of your surroundings and avoid unnecessary stress on your neck and upper back. Walk with even strides and a natural arm swing. When increasing your pace, your strides should stay the same length.
The act of walking is only going to be a part of the equation. Staying hydrated, eating well, and living a healthy lifestyle will play a role in your overall success with your walking program and your overall wellness. When you’re ready, you will also want to begin to incorporate other forms of exercise to avoid over training.
Before starting your walking program, consult with your PCP to ensure it is safe for you to begin.
If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain or shortness of breath at any time while exercising you should stop immediately. If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your health care professional, or 911, immediately.
 Exercise: Starting a Walking Program. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://uhs.berkeley.edu/health-topics/exercise-starting-walking-program
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.thewalkingsite.com/beginner.html