Put your best foot forward
Forget “no pain, no gain.” Research shows that regular, brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart attack by the same amount as more vigorous exercise, like jogging. So take a walk around campus, use a treadmill at an on-campus fitness center, or check out an item from the WorkLife Programs Resource Center, and walk your way to good health.
Walking is an easy, safe and inexpensive way to get and stay in shape. Like other exercise, walking can improve your health by:
- reducing your stress level
- improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- improving strength and balance to prevent falls for those with osteoporosis
- lowering risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke, breast and colon cancer, and osteoporosis
- making you stronger and more fit
- causing a surge in your brain’s endorphin and serotonin levels that will lift your mood
- helping you manage your weight
Walking isnít as likely to lead to injuries as other types of exercise, but itís good to take time to prepare so you can prevent blisters or muscle pain.
- Get the right gear
Be sure to wear supportive shoes, and dress in layers of loose-fitting, comfortable clothing. If you walk outside, make sure your clothes are appropriate for the weather. Be safe – wear bright colors or reflective tape after dark so you can be seen by drivers.
- Use the proper technique
Walking is great exercise, but you need to guard against injury. Read the How to Walk - Walking Posture article for the proper technique.
- Warm up and stretch
Spend about five minutes warming up and stretching your muscles (calf, thigh, hamstring and side).
- Cool down after each session
Cooling down is as important as warming up. It helps reduce the stress on your heart and muscles. End each session by walking slowly for about five minutes.
If you’re ready to start a walking fitness program:
- Go slowly. If you’ve been at it for a while, keep doing what you're doing. If you’re just starting, go slowly and walk only as far or as fast as you can comfortably. Try starting with 5 to 10 minutes each day, and work up to 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week. Remember that some movement is better than none.
- Consider investing in a pedometer. Guidelines suggest walking 10,000 steps per day; that’s close to five miles. Wearing a pedometer is an easy way to track your steps. You might be surprised how many (or few) steps you get in each day. There are even pedometer applications for your smart phone (check with your carrier).
- Check your heart rate. Knowing your heart rate allows you to increase intensity to maximize your workout or slow down to avoid overdoing it. Check your pulse at the neck or wrist, or wear an electronic heart rate monitor. Most fitness experts recommend exercising between 55 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. To calculate your maximum heart rate subtract your age from 220. Multiply that number by .55, and multiply the same number by .85. Example: If you are age 40, your target heart rate is between 99 and 157.
220 - 40 = 180
180 x .55= 99
180 x .85= 157
If you have difficulty taking your pulse, you can use “conversational pace” as a gauge to whether or not you’re within your range. According to the American Heart Association, “if you can talk and walk at the same time, you aren't working too hard. If you can sing and maintain your level of effort, you're probably not working hard enough. If you get out of breath quickly, you're probably working too hard.”
- Make it a family affair. Start a new tradition of walking together at least once a week. Take a walk around the block or through the park.
Physical Activity Resource Guide from WorkLife Programs
Target heart rate calculator (American Cancer Society)
How to determine your target heart rate
American Cancer Society
American Heart Association