You have now decided that you can’t put it off any longer, you must get healthier and fitter. Your friends fly up the stairs at your office but you have to rest half way and, need oxygen when you get to your floor! If you can persuade a friend to get fit with you, that gives you added motivation as you won’t want to let your friend down.
Walking is a wonderful way to reduce stress, tone up, lose weight and generally feel better about yourself because you are being proactive. If you are over 40 and haven’t exercised in years or have a serious health problem, it is best to see your doctor before you begin any exercise programme.
Begin by walking just 15 minutes a day. If you can’t manage to walk daily, then make it every other day. Walk briskly but not at speed walking pace. Try to remember to tighten your abdominals and buttocks and make sure your shoulders are down and relaxed and your head is up. You should still be able to carry on a conversation but can be a little breathless.
If after the first day you feel you can walk for 20 minutes then do it, if you can’t, stick to 15 minutes, but try to increase the time to 30 minutes after one week. Keep a diary of how long you have walked for and don’t worry about distance. As your stamina improves you will find you are covering much longer distances in your 30 minute walk than you did when you first started.
WARM UP AND COOL DOWN
At this early stage, don’t worry too much about warm up exercises, just start your walk at a leisurely pace and then increase it. When you get home do some hamstring and calf stretches, holding each for between 15 and 30 seconds. Also stretch your arms, shoulders and back.
The most important item of clothing is good running shoes which fit well and offer good support. Wear lightweight clothing made of wicking material which will absorb sweat and keep you dry. Avoid cotton clothing and socks as they stay wet and make life uncomfortable. Wear a reflective running vest or reflective running belt so that you are highly visible to traffic.
YOUR PURPOSE FOR WALKING – IF IT’S YOUR ONLY FORM OF EXERCISE
Weight loss - it is recommended that you build up to 45 to 60 minutes at a brisk pace for at least 5 days a week. Build up slowly over at least a month.
General health - needs 30 minutes fast walking every day of the week if you can manage it.
Stamina and cardiovascular fitness - walk at a very fast pace for 20 to 30 minutes on 3 or 4 days a week – remember build up slowly.