Your No-Excuses Guide to Walking
A simple form of exercise, walking can lower blood pressure, help you sleep, spur weight loss, and generally improve health. But it's easy to find reasons not to go when the time comes to lace up your sneakers. Here's how to conquer the most common excuses for not walking, adapted from Walk Your Way to Better Health: The World's Easiest Way to Drop Pounds, Boost Energy, and Beat Disease by Michele Stanten and the Editors of Prevention—get the complete walking guide here!
You can't find the time.
Keep a pair of walking shoes in your car or office so you're always ready to go. (These are our top picks. Bonus: they're cute enough to wear anywhere!)
Carve out pockets of time in your schedule when you can walk, whether that's early in the morning, at lunch hour, or in the evening. The best time of day to exercise is the time when you're most likely to do it.
When you have an appointment, get there 15 minutes ahead of schedule so you can take a quick walk around the block beforehand.
On days when you don't feel like walking or can't cover 5 miles, set a timer for 10 minutes and head out. When the timer beeps, you're done. (These four walking workouts blast calories in 10 minutes or less!)
You get tired quickly.
Eat three meals a day (no need to stick to precise times), plus two small healthy snacks. Strive for a nutritious balance of veggies, fruits, and protein like lean meat, dairy, soybeans, and nuts.
Avoid processed carbs like white bread, pasta, and cereal before your walk. These foods act like sugar in your body, causing blood sugar spikes and crashes that can leave you feeling moody and tired.
(Properly fuel your body with Walk Your Way To Better Health's sensational 21-day weight loss meal plan. You'll find more than 100 recipes for meals, snacks, and desserts. Click here to get started.)
Stay hydrated while you're walking. When sweat evaporates, it removes fluids from your body, and even moderate dehydration can cause fatigue.
You don't have the right shoes.
Shop for footwear at a running/walking store. You'll get more personalized advice than you will at department stores. Bring a pair of old shoes so the salespeople can note the wear pattern, which clues them in to how you walk and helps them offer informed choices.
Consider running shoes for walking. Because there are more options, you'll have an easier time finding a good fit. Skip cross-training, tennis, and basketball shoes, all of which are designed for lateral, not forward, action.
Walk a few laps around the store's interior to test comfort. Try on several brands for comparison and make sure your toes can move around. Because your feet swell during walks, you should have at least a thumb's width between your longest toe and the front of your shoe. (Once you have your sneakers, buy a pair of comfortable walking sandals—perfect for summer travel!)
Your knees aren't up for it.
Warm up by walking a block or two at a comfortable pace. The more you move, the more lubricating fluid your joints produce, so you'll feel less stiff on the second or third block of your walk than you did on your first. (If you're truly suffering, here's how to take control of your chronic pain.)
Steadily increase your distance. Begin by walking at a comfortable pace for 10 to 15 minutes daily for a week. After that, increase the length of time you walk before you increase the speed (you can split longer walks into 10-minute segments if necessary).
Remember that walking helps, rather than hurts, your joints. Studies have shown that walking 5 to 6 miles a week may help prevent osteoarthritis, especially in the knees and hips, which are the most commonly affected joints. Already have osteoarthritis? Researchers have found that 45 minutes of walking per week can help relieve pain and stiffness and maintain function over time.
Know when to stop
Health warnings to watch for—and what to do if you experience them
Normal Heart pumping rhythmically harder and faster
Abnormal Chest pain, pressure, or tightness; skipped heartbeats or palpitations
What to do Stop immediately and call 911.
Normal Breathing faster and harder
Abnormal Shortness of breath
What to do Stop immediately and call your doctor (or 911 if it's sudden and severe or accompanied by chest pain).
Normal Muscle soreness or burning
Abnormal Sharp, shooting pain in a muscle or any pain in a joint
What to do Stop, rest, and apply ice. If pain persists or worsens, see a doctor.
Normal General fatigue
Abnormal Lightheadedness, dizziness, numbness, paralysis, speech difficulty, vision problems, or mental confusion
What to do Stop immediately and call 911.