Your Walking Plan

To get your heart pumping hard enough to provide cardiac benefits, all you need is a decent pair of walking shoes. According to the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 80,000 women for more than 20 years, just a half hour of brisk walking a day—that’s 30 minutes, or the time it takes to watch one sitcom—can slash your risk of a heart attack by 30 to 40 percent

There are many reasons we chose walking as the core of the exercise plan. Among them:

Walking is safer than jogging. Because a walker lands with just onefifth the force of a runner, walking is much easier on your joints and ligaments.

Anyone can walk. It’s a good option ever for people who are pregnant, have arthritis, have heart disease, or are just recovering from a heart attack.

It’s inexpensive. A pair of shoes and socks are all you need, (Well, vou should wear clothes. )

You’ll stick with it. Only 25 percent of people who walk for exercise quit, compared to 50 or 60 percent of those who start other exercises.

You can do it anywhere, anytime. Bad weather? Walk in the mall. On vacation? Walking is a great way to see the sites Overdue for an outing with friends? ¢ Schedule a scenic hike

It’s easy to vary the intensity. To work Sei harder, walk faster or walk up and downstairs or hills. Feeling tired or recovering from an illness? Slow it down. Your Target Heart Rate stairs or hills. Feeling tired or recovering On the Plan we want you to build you way up to walking at from an illness? Slow it down. hat you’ll look for opportunities to fit walking into the rest of your day.

Before you begin, find out where you stand now in terms of aerobie fitness.Walk a mile (that’s four laps around a high school track). Record how long it it quickly, count the pulses in 10 takes you and what your heart rate, or Try this again in four weeks. Chances have improved. (If you walk faster as you get fitter, your heart rate may not decrease.) To take your pulse, place two  fingers on your wrist near your thumb, or on the side of your neck just below our Adam’s apple. Adjust your fingers until you feel a strong pulse. Count the number of pulses in 30 seconds, then multiply by 2. (For an even quicker pulse check, see the box at left.)

The Little Gadget that Could

Who would have thought that something smaller than a deck of cards and cheaper than a pair of sneakers could make all the difference when it comes to getting yourself to walk more? We’re talking about a pedometer, a device that senses your body motion and counts your steps, then converts that number into distance based on the length of your stride. On the Plan we encourage you to buy a pedometer and keep track of the steps you take every day, aiming for a goal of 50,000 steps a week by the end of 12 weeks. “We have found inexpensive, electronic step-counters to be a fabulous tool for motivating people to increase physical activity,” says James O. Hill, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Centerin Denver. The Center is working to get people throughout the entire state of Colorado to track their steps as they walk their way to fitness. While pedometers have just begun to take off in the United States, they’ve been popular in Japan for more than 30 years, and the average Japanese family owns 3.2 of them. Pedometers make physical activity fun, and they tap into our competitive streak by enabling us to compete against ourselves or others, On average, sedentary people take only 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day. But studies find that taking 6,000 steps a day significantly reduces the risk of death. Adding 2,000 steps, or about 1 mile a day, will help you maintain your current weight and stop gaining weight, That takes only about 15 to 20 minutes, which you can spread over the course of your day,

Trick Of  The Trade

Walking is a gentle sport, but you do need to pay attention to your form and protect your body from any strains or injuries. It’s not diffieult—just follow these tips:

  • When possible walk on a soft surface such as a running track. dirt read.instead of a hard sidewalk or road. to cushion the imp act on your joints. or grass.
  • Increase your mileage or time in small increments. In other words. don’t go from

  • Keep your arms bent at a 90-dearce angle

  • Hold your body fully upright, with your shoulders pulled slightly back and pushed down, not rounded, (Try to squeeze or pinch your shoulder blades together.) Don’t thrust your head forward; keep your ears aligned with vour
  • Bring your hands no higher than shoulder height in the forward motion, and keep them by the side of your body in the backward motion. This is especially important if you’re using hand weights for added resistance. And stay away from ankle weights while walking; using them can throw off your natural gait, which may lead to injunes.

Walk in the Right Shoes

While you can walk in any pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes, you may want to invest in a pair of sneakers specifically designed for walking. If you do, follow these tips:

Start with socks. While you’re at the shoe store, buy some new socks, too. Look for padded socks made of acrylic. Acrylic tends to wick away perspiration—which active feet can produce from 250,000 sweat glands at a rate of 4 to 6 ounces a day— better than cotton or wool.

Get the timing right. Try shoes on in the afternoon, since your feet swell enough during the day to affect your shoe size. Make sure to try them on with athletic socks.

Go for a three-way fit. The longest of your toes should clear the end of the shoe by about one-half inch (about the width of your thumb). The ball of your foot should fit comfortably into the widest part of the shoe. And the heel of your foot should fit snugly in the back without any slippage.

Replace shoes often. Trade in your shoes when you’ve walked 350 to 550 miles in them. If you’re logging about 15 miles a week (2 to 3 miles a day, five days a week), that means replacing them about every six months. Once your shoes have covered that much distance they will have lost their shock-absorption capacity and some of their stability. To see if it’s time for a new pair, place your shoes on a table and look at them from behind. Check for wear and tear of the sole. If they’re leaning to one side, the midsole cushioning is probably shot. The next time you’re in a shoe store, try on a new pair of the model that you are currently wearing. If the cushioning in your shoes feels dead in comparison, it probably is.

Hitting Your Stride

Your goal is to walk for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week and also to look for other opportunities during the day to be active so you can log 50,000 steps on most days by the end of the 12 weeks. Keep your pedometer on all day to encourage yourself to walk when you might otherwise drive or sit still. (The 12-week Plan starting on page 206 will ask you to write down the number of steps you take every day.) If you take an hour-long walk, you’re almost there. If you take a 30-minute walk, you’ll need to fit more walking into the rest of your day. Here are some ways to do it: 

  • Park as far as possible from entrances at work, shopping centers, or restaurants,
  • if you take the bus, get off a stop or two early and hoof it the rest of the way.
  • Pace instead of standing while talking on the phone or waiting for the elevator. e Take the stairs rather than the elevator. e Hide the remote and use commercials as your signal to get up and walk up and down the stairs or circle your house until the program comes back on. e Return the shopping cart all the way into the store,
  • Get a dog and do not fence your yard. You’ll have no choice but to walk Rover at least three times a day. (Rover will love you for it.) e Can’t get a dog? Volunteer to walk a neighbor’s pooch or the dogs at your local animal shelter. 
  • Get up and talk to your coworkers instead of e-mailing them. 
  • Use the rest room, copy machine, or water fountain farthest fromm your work area. 
  • Find a walking buddy. Studies show that people are more likely to stick with an exercise program if they’re doing it with someone. Invite a neighbor, relative, or coworker to hit the ground walking. 
  • Get a freezer or refrigerator for the garage or basement and keep some staples there. It forces you to walk back and forth several times a day.

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