Walking: A Step in the Right Direction

Why Walk?

Walking is one of the easiest ways to be physically active. You can do it almost anywhere and at any time. Walking also is inexpensive. All you need is a pair of shoes with sturdy heel support.

Walking will:

 Give you more energy
 Make you feel good
 Help you to relax
 Reduce stress
 Help you sleep better
 Tone your muscles
 Help control your appetite
 Increase the number of calories your body uses

For all these reasons, people have started walking programs. If you would like to start your own program, read and follow the information provided in this article.


Is It Okay for Me to Walk?

Answer the following questions before you begin a walking program:


  • Has your health care provider ever told you that you have trouble?
  • When you are physically active, do you have pains in your chest or on your left side (neck, shoulder or arm)?
  • Do you often feel faint or have dizzy spells?
  • Do you feel extremely breathless after you have been physically active?
  • Has your health care provider told you that you have high blood pressure?
  • Has your health care provider told you that you have bone or joint problems, like arthritis, that could get worse if you are physically active?
  • Are you over 50 years old and not used to a lot of physical activity?
  • Do you have a health problem or physical reason not mentioned here that might keep you from starting a walking program?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, please check with your healthcare provider before starting a walking program or other form of physical activity.


How Do I Start a Walking Program?

Leave time in your busy schedule to follow a walking program that will work for you. In planning your walking program, keep the following points in mind:


  • Choose a safe place to walk. Find a partner or group of people to walk with you. Your walking partner(s) should be able to walk with you on the same schedule and at the same speed.
  • Wear shoes with thick flexible soles that will cushion your feet and absorb shock.
  • Wear clothes that will keep you dry and comfortable. Look for synthetic fabrics that absorb sweat and remove it from your skin.
  • For extra warmth in winter, wear a knit cap. To stay cool in summer, wear a baseball cap or visor.
  • Do light stretching before and after you walk.
  • Think of your walk in three parts. Walk slowly for five minutes. Increase your speed for the next five minutes. Finally, to cool down, walk slowly again for five minutes.
  • Try to walk at least three times per week. Add two to three minutes per week to the fast walk. If you walk less than three times per week, increase the fast walk more slowly.
  • To avoid stiff or sore muscles or joints, start gradually. Over several weeks, begin walking faster, going further and walking for longer periods of time.
  • The more you walk, the better you will feel. You also will use more calories.


Safety Tips

 Keep safety in mind when you plan your route and the time of your walk
 Walk in the daytime or at night in well-lit areas
 Walk in a group at all times
 Notify your local police station of your group’s walking time and route
 Do not wear jewelry
 Do not wear headphones
 Be aware of your surroundings


How Do I Warm Up?

Before you start to walk, do the stretches shown here. Remember not to bounce when you stretch. Perform slow movements and stretch only as far as you feel comfortable.


Side ReachSide Reaches

Before you start to walk, do the stretches shown here.

Remember not to bounce when you stretch. Perform slow
movements and stretch only as far as you feel comfortable.

Knee PullKnee Pull

Lean your back against a wall. Keep your head, hips and feet in a straight line. Pull one knee to your chest, hold for 10 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.




Wall PushPush

Lean your hands on a wall with your feet about three to four feet away from the wall. Bend one knee and point it toward the wall. Keep your back leg straight with your foot flat and your toes pointed straight ahead. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other leg.



Leg CurlCurl

Pull your right foot to your buttocks with your right hand. Keep your knee pointing straight to the ground. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with your left foot and hand.





Taking the First Step


Wallking Program Walking right is very important
Walk with your chin up and your shoulders held slightly
Walk so that the heel of your foot touches the ground first. Roll your weight forward
Walk with your toes pointed forward
Swing your arms as you walk
If you walk less than three times per week, increase the fast walk time more slowly








National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Weight-Control Information Network
1 Win Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3665
1-877-946-4627 or (202) 828-1025
Fax: (202) 828-1028

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases,
National Institutes of Health
Updated: September 2004