Regardless of size, shape, gender, or ethnicity, at this very moment there are millions of people (around the world) “thinking” about starting an exercise program. The thought of push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges scares away many people who are unfamiliar with physical activity. Many of them have the perception that vigorous and intense exercise is the only way to lose weight, get stronger, or get results. A successful fitness program can start with something as simple as … WALKING!
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week (the equivalent of 21 minutes and 26 seconds per day) to promote a good quality of life. Although some may consider this reasonable, others may not be as willing to do the work. On the other hand, recent studies in The Lancet have shown that exercising just 15 minutes per day can increase life expectancy. Even though “some” exercise is proven to be significantly better than none at all, there is still hesitation by many to get started on a program.
There are many legitimate reasons why people choose not to exercise. Examples include:
- Lack of motivation
- Feeling uncomfortable exercising in public
- Not knowing what to do (and potentially hurting or embarrassing themselves)
- Dealing with chronic pain and/or injury
- Chronic medical conditions that limit mobility
They say “the first step is the hardest” when it comes to making a life altering change. The same holds true when it comes to getting comfortable with exercise and fitness.
Walking is a great way to start (because we are already doing it … and just need to do enough each day to make a difference). An inactive person walks about 3,000 steps per day (walking around the house throughout the day). Every 2,000 to 2,500 steps is approximately one mile. 10,000 steps a day was popularized by work done in Japan (where the culture is already very active). It is more of a guide as to how much activity you are getting each day.
A great way to start is to simply track your steps. You don’t know if you’re improving if you don’t even know where you started from. Once you know that starting/baseline number you can gradually increase your weekly goals. For someone starting out (and new to exercise), it is recommended to increase the number of steps gradually. Using a pedometer (a device or mobile app that counts each step a person takes) can help you track the number of steps you take each day and one’s progress over time.
Walking Program – 16 Weeks
Below is a sample schedule for a 16 week (4 month) walking/steps program:
- Week 1: 1,500 steps
- Week 2: 2,000 steps (approx. 1 mile)
- Week 3: 2,500 steps
- Week 4: 3,000 steps
- Week 5: 3,500 steps
- Week 6: 4,000 steps (approx. 2 miles)
- Week 7: 4,500 steps
- Week 8: 5,000 steps
- Week 9: 5,500 steps
- Week 10: 6,000 steps (approx. 3 miles)
- Week 11: 6,500 steps
- Week 12: 7,250 steps
- Week 13: 8,000 steps (approx. 4 miles)
- Week 14: 8,500 steps
- Week 15: 9,250 steps
- Week 16: 10,000 steps (approx. 5 miles)
This program is designed to give a realistic guideline to follow and track one’s progress.
There are several websites that offer free tools to help you track your steps and learn more about exercise, nutrition and health:
Additional tips on how to make walking a part of a long-term, active lifestyle include the following:
- Don’t be in a hurry to get to your final target number. Take your time and enjoy the process (so activity becomes an enjoyable part of your life).
- Invest in good shoes to avoid injury or pain (an injury will set you back rather than move you ahead).
- Drink adequate amounts of water.
- Change up the scenery (i.e. in your neighborhood, at the park, on a treadmill).
- Find others that will get active with you (i.e. friends, family members, MeetUp group).
- Celebrate your accomplishments!