One Step at a Time
Answers to four questions about walking for fitness
You've thought about taking up Pilates but don't want to
invest in the equipment. And you considered joining a gym, but
you're not sure how to use the machines properly. Never fear.
There's an exercise nearly everyone can do. It doesn't require any
complicated equipment and you already know the basics-after all,
you've been doing it since you were a toddler. Can you guess what
it is? It's walking, and it may be the perfect form of
"Walking is a great workout," says Cedric Bryant, chief science
officer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). "It's a skill
we all have, so there's no learning curve, and it's safe and
Here, we answer four questions to get you started on a walking
Q: I'm very busy. How can I fit a daily walk into my
A: First, it may help to understand just how important exercise
is to your health. Not only does regular exercise help you maintain
a healthy weight, it also helps keep your heart healthy, releases
stress, helps you to sleep better, and reduces your risk of
diabetes and certain types of cancer, among other things.
With that in mind, it may be easier to fit a daily walk into
your schedule. But don't just try to remember. Write it in your
calendar. And when someone asks you to do something during that
time, tell them you're booked-because you are.
If devoting 30 minutes is too much to begin with, break it up
into three 10-minute chunks and build from there.
Q: How can I fit more steps into my regular routine?
A: The walking you do throughout the day counts toward your
daily total, too. Making an effort to take a few more steps here
and there can go a long way.
First, get a pedometer, a device that counts your steps. The
moment you clip it onto your belt, you'll be motivated to walk
more. Then, look for opportunities throughout the day to up your
You've probably already heard tips such as parking farther away
from your destination and taking the stairs instead of the
elevator, but consider other ideas as well. Walk to your
co-worker's desk instead of sending an e-mail. When meeting a
friend for coffee, get her to go for a walk around the building
instead of sitting inside. Unload the dishwasher one or two pieces
at a time.
Q: How can I prevent injury?
A: Warming up is a good idea before doing any type of exercise.
Bryant recommends starting with five minutes of simple leg lifts or
arm circles, or walking slowly to ready your body for exercise. And
after your walk, don't forget to cool down. Bryant recommends
stretching as an effective cool-down. Plus, it builds
The clothing you wear is also important. Wear comfortable
clothes that help regulate your body temperature to avoid
overheating, and invest in proper footwear.
"Get a pair of shoes that provides good support, plenty of
cushioning and a wide enough toe box," Bryant says. "A
cross-training shoe should work well." And replace them as soon as
they wear out. Walking shoes should only last nine to 12 months,
depending on use, according to Bryant. Don't wait too long to
Q: What can I do about being sore after a walk?
A: Any exercise may cause soreness, usually within 24 to 48
hours, according to ACE. Studies have found that a range of
therapies can help, including applying ice to the affected area,
stretching and taking nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. Massage to relax the
muscles is also effective, and can help prevent injury. It also
makes for a nice reward for all the hard work you're doing to stay
healthy. -By Shelley Flannery