Before setting out on designing an exercise and/or walking program, you should always know exactly what you want to accomplish. Some people have a primary goal of losing weight, while others want to gain muscle or improve their heart health. After you determine your goals, be sure to ask yourself if how often and how intensely you plan to exercise will meet your goals.
My favorite exercise for people who are just starting to improve their fitness is power walking. This is my number one choice because most people can do it anywhere, anytime, and the risk of injury is low.
Walking is a great choice of exercise, especially if you'd like to lose weight. You can perform it outside when the weather is nice, making for a very pleasant workout, or on a treadmill during inclement weather and have the advantage of being able to control the grade to gradually make your workout more challenging. You can use a pedometer to monitor your progress as they have become very sophisticated in recent years. My favorite pedometer is the SportBrain pedometer.
Guidelines for Starting a Walking Program
Walk a minimum of five times a week.
Select the duration of your walking sessions based on the number of minutes that you can continuously walk (between 10 and 30 minutes).
Walk at an intensity whereby you can speak but your breathing is noticeably elevated.
Try to increase your walking time by at least two minutes each week.
To properly perform the technique of power walking, be sure to use good posture: Keep your chin up and look straight out in front of you; be sure your shoulders are pulled up and back. Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle and swing them with your fists coming up to shoulder level before swinging back down. If you power walk consistently, your pace should get faster the more you do it. Try to increase your walk time by at least two minutes each week. Your cardiovascular system will be getting stronger and your metabolism will be revving up. And here’s a little secret: As your pace gets faster, your percentage of body fat is decreasing. Below is a sample walking plan and progression. Please note that anyone starting an exercise program or modifying an existing exercise program should consult their physician.