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How to Start Walking for Exercise

Three Parts:Preparing for your walksSetting out on your walkImproving your performance

Walking is a basic movement we use every day, but it can require discipline to walk enough to gain health benefits. It's recommended that individuals take at least 10,000 steps each day for exercise, which can be easily measured by a pedometer. Read on for other tips on starting a walking regimen.

Part 1
Preparing for your walks

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    Find a good place to walk. Generally, the locations for walking have a flat terrain, straight path, smooth surface and minimal traffic. The convenient choice would be the neighborhood around your block, but if the road is too steep, curvy or just not what you're looking for, you might want to consider other areas around your town.
    • Ensure you are wearing appropriate footwear as walking puts a bit of pressure on your feet which can cause pain. Also, be sure you are wearing the correct footwear for the weather.
    • Take your car to a park if it's too far away to walk; parks are often flat and very peaceful.
    • Some cities have bike boulevards or walking paths that are relatively flat and well-maintained. They also generally have less traffic from cars. These are good areas to pick for walking as well.
    • If you won't be tempted by the stores(shopping), shopping malls are also good locations for walking around. They are flat, large, and probably contain many different paths so you won't become bored.
    • If you live near a large body of water, the shoreline can be a nice, relaxing place to get some fresh air and to work in an early morning hike.
    • If indoor exercise is your thing, use a treadmill set to a slow speed for walking.
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    Make an exercise playlist. It may help to have music playing as you take your walk, especially if you are easily bored from low-key activities. Consider listening to music that also gives your mind room to wander and think about other parts of your life. You can also listen to music that is upbeat that you know that will keep your motivation your walk. Walks are an excellent opportunity to reflect and plan for the future, although take care to avoid stressful topics. Your walk should definitely be a chance to unwind!
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    Set reasonable expectations for your progress. If you have been sedentary for a long period of time, you will want to start out slower and aim for shorter distances. Write these tangible goals down in a notebook or calendar so that you can keep yourself on track and monitor small successes.
    • Note, however, that walking is a fairly mild exercise that does not require vigorous physical exertion. Therefore, with the right equipment, you will likely be physically capable of walking for hours. You won't meet the same fatigue that a more vigorous exercise, such as running or weightlifting, could lead to.
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    Develop a strong mental attitude for "slow but steady" exercise. This will be easier for some than for others. To borrow from a popular phrase, walking is definitely a marathon, not a sprint, so get your mental endurance ready before you begin this trek.
    • Don't expect to see fast results. Incorporating walking into your daily schedule is about making healthier choices towards a better lifestyle, and it's a change that you should maintain indefinitely. Don't use walking as a get-fit-quick scheme or as a quick, one-shot weight loss tool.
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    Hydrate well before you begin walking. Make sure you have consumed at least 8-16 ounces of water an hour before you are about to walk. Drink more water if you plan to walk for a longer time. You don't want to become dehydrated while you are exercising, especially under a hot sun.
    • You may find it convenient to carry a metal water bottle with you as you walk, so you can stay hydrated throughout your trek.
    • Some people develop stomach cramps if they drink water right before or while they exercise, so be careful of that. Give your body time to process the water before diving into exercise.
    • Don't drink so much water, however, that you'll need a bathroom while on a long walk.

Part 2
Setting out on your walk

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    Pick an easy first walk. Make sure that no matter how far you get from your starting point, you are able to get back there. Walking on an oval track no more than a quarter mile around should be perfect.
    • If you feel comfortable in extending the walk past what you initially set, go for it! As aforementioned, walking is less physically taxing than most activities, so don't be afraid to exceed your goals.
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    Set a time. When you first start walking, decide how many minutes you will walk. Choose a length of time you know you can make. Do not worry about how short that period is. Just keep moving until you reach it. 2-5 minutes each day is a good start. That time will increase from week to week.
    • Pay no attention to how far you walk. It matters more that you walk for a longer period of time. Faster and farther walks will come with experience.

Part 3
Improving your performance

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    Increase your time. Each walk, increase your walking time by 30 seconds to 1 minute until you are able to sustain a 10-minute walk. Again, do not fret if you can't go longer than the day before. Set the goal and keep at it and you will reach it faster than you think. After reaching 10 minutes, your rate of increasing may slow, but continue trying to increase your walking time by 5 minutes each week.
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    Work on speed and difficulty after you are able to walk for 45 minutes each day. Try moving off of the oval and onto the city streets; you will encounter hills and declines, and that will increase the difficulty of your walk.
    • Continue to find more difficult terrain to work with, eventually working up to hiking up hills and cliffs for the ultimate challenge.
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    Determine your target and maximum heart rate. You can also purchase a heart rate monitor and wear it during your exercise for increased accuracy and precision. If you are under your target heart rate (THR), you need to increase walking speed for it to be beneficial for your health.
    • Your body won't burn fat unless you reach you THR for a sustained period of time.
    • When it comes to walking, weight loss and aerobic health will come through sustained effort, not through increased speed or distance.
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    After you've worked into a general routine, try switching things up with interval training. Walk at an increased rate for one to two minutes, then slow back to your normal rate for two minutes. Every day or two add an interval until you reach your desired total time, including rest periods. As you become more physically fit, reduce your rest periods until they are down to a minute or less.


  • Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy, supportive athletic shoes.
  • Walk with a good posture. Stand completely straight, put your shoulders back, and take long strides.
  • Walking is a very good stress management technique in addition to being good exercise. If you practice active abdominal breathing during each step, you will benefit even more.
  • You might find ways to incorporate walking into your daily routine if you can't find the time to go walking for the sake of it: take the stairs instead of the escalator or the lift; walk to the shops if they're close by; if you visit a friend who doesn't live too far away, leave the car at home. It's surprising how much difference it can make when you regularly climb a few flights of stairs and take frequent short walks.
  • When you are able to get, and stay, on your target heart rate, you will want to cool down a bit at the end of your walk. If you have been able to stay in the target rate for 20 minutes or so, spend about 5 minutes at the end of the walk trying to bring your heart rate back to where it was pre-walk. Slowing your pace down and doing some more light stretching can accomplish this. Do not stop walking to slow your heart rate in a cool down. It defeats the purpose of a cool down.
  • Try using an iPod or other MP3 player to add entertainment to the walk. Books on tape make the walk go by faster and you may want to walk longer. When doing this, however, be extra careful to look out for cars if you are walking on a street, since you may not be able to hear approaching vehicles over your audio device.
  • Learn how to race walk. It burns more calories, works more muscles and has better cardiovascular benefits.
  • Walking may cause cramps. If a cramp occurs, place your hands on your head and begin breathing through your nose and out your mouth at a slow steady rate. Be sure to bring a water bottle with you.
  • Swing your arms as you walk.
  • Many people recognize the local mall as an excellent place to walk for exercise -- safe, fun and climate-controlled.
  • Walk with your palms facing forward. This can help your posture and is good for your spine.
  • In the beginning it is not necessary to warm up, however once you really start to put stress on your legs, you should participate in some light stretching.
  • If you drive, park your car a block or two away from where you live, that way you have to walk to get to it.
  • If you can live in a city centre where walking is a default activity and you hardly need a car, then you may find you don't even need to think about deliberately choosing walking as an exercise, as you'll just do it naturally.
  • If you usually drive to school/college/work, try walking to a nearby park. Or why not try parking your car a few streets away from wherever you're going and walk the rest of the way!


  • Although using an mp3 player or radio can make your walk more interesting, it also makes it difficult to hear things around you, including potential hazards such as oncoming traffic, would-be attackers, and animals. If you like to listen to music or books while you walk, keep the volume moderate and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Wear white clothing and reflective fabrics if you will be walking at night. Don't assume that drivers are paying attention or that they can see you after dark.
  • Be prepared for your walk. Take water with you. Also take along a whistle in case you get into trouble with dogs or unsavory people. Carrying a cell phone is also a good idea.
  • If you are walking and become short of breath, slow down or stop. Ask for help if you need it.
  • Before undertaking this or any other exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor, especially if you haven't been physically active in more than 6 months.

Things You'll Need

  • A water bottle
  • A cellphone for emergencies
  • A danger whistle to call for help should you run into trouble, e.g. criminal, threatening animal, physical distress
  • A hat and sunblock on sunny days
  • An MP3 or CD player so you can listen to music while walking
  • A small, clip-on pocket light or flashing armband, especially where there is no proper sidewalk or where cyclists use the sidewalk and may not see you in the dark

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