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Hey You: Take a Hike!

Walk Your Way to Better Health

Brisk walking requires moderate effort with many health benefits.

By Karen Angelo

Many well-intended people jump into exercise with gusto, only to find that their motivation fizzles and eventually disappears within just a few months. 

One reason for running out of steam may be biting off more than you can chew. 

“People may not be able to stay with an exercise routine because they’ve set their goals too high,” says Assistant Prof. Deirdra Murphy of the Physical Therapy Department. “I suggest that people try brisk walking because it’s a physical activity that requires moderate effort with many health benefits. Walking can be a really great fitness program as well as a good way to ease slowly into higher levels of fitness.”

By incorporating just 30 minutes of moderate walking at least five days a week into work, school or family routines, you’ll will feel better, look better and meet the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. Studies show that 30 minutes a day of walking or biking reduces risks of diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.

Break a sweat

How can you tell if you’re working hard enough to gain health benefits? One way to know is that you’ll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song. Another way to know if you’re working hard enough is if you break a sweat.

Murphy, who co-chairs the Healthy Weight Task Force of the Greater Lowell Health Alliance, suggests taking these steps to kick off your walking program.

  1. Start slowly and check with your physician before beginning any new exercise 
  2. Be sure you get the right shoes. They should be lightweight, flexible at the ball of the foot with stiff soles, replaced every 500 miles, and the correct size. 
  3. Dress right for the weather: Dress in layers and wear reflective clothes at night. Top your outfit with a hat on cold or sunny days. 
  4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Drink a glass of water 10 minutes before your walk. Drink a glass or two of water after your walk. 
  5. Keep your head up: Literally! Don’t look at the ground while walking. 
  6. Keep good posture to prevent pains in your back, neck and shoulders. Try thinking: “Suck in your gut, tuck in your butt.”

Deirdra Murphy offers tips to kick off a walking program.