NORMAN — Dear Savvy Senior, Can you give me some tips on starting a walking program? I need to lose weight and get my blood pressure under control, but I hate to exercise.
— Unfit at 59
More than 25 years of research has shown that walking may be the single best exercise you can do to improve your health. It burns calories (about 100 for every mile you walk), which will help you lose weight, it builds endurance, enhances muscle tone and it doesn’t pound your joints.
It also helps improve or prevent many age-related health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and dementia.
Walking is not only good for what ails you. It’s also one of the easiest and most convenient exercises you can do and is completely free. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes that fit well and a little desire. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Start walking: Start out slow if you need to. For many people, this means heading out the door, walking for 10 minutes and walking back. Do it every day for a week. If that seems easy, add five minutes to your walks next week and keep adding five minutes until you are walking as long as you desire.
It’s also a smart idea to start and finish your walk with a few simple warm up and cool down stretches. Stretching will make you feel better and help prevent injury.
How far: Any walking is better than none, but most fitness professionals recommend walking about 30 minutes, five days a week. Research has shown that the 30 minutes can be broken up throughout the day — 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there. Or, for optimal health benefits, aim for 10,000 steps per day, which is the equivalent of about five miles.