Walking is one of the easiest ways to be
physically active. You can do it almost
anywhere and at any time. Walking is also
inexpensive–all you need is a pair of shoes
with sturdy heel support. Walking may:
- Give you more energy and make you
- Reduce stress and help you relax.
- Tone your muscles.
- Increase the number of calories your
- Strengthen your bones and muscles.
- Improve your stamina and your fitness.
- Lower your risk of chronic diseases, such as
heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Give you an opportunity to socialize actively
with friends and family.
For all of these reasons, people have started
walking programs. If you would like to start your
own program, read and follow the information
provided in this pamphlet.
okay for me to walk?
Answer the following questions before you
begin a walking program.
- Has your health care provider told you that
you have heart trouble, diabetes, or asthma?
- When you are physically active, do you have
pains in your chest, 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, such
- Are you over 50 years old and not used to
doing any moderate physical activity?
- Are you pregnant?
- Do you smoke?
- 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 health care 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.
Keep the following points in mind as you plan
- 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
- Wear shoes with proper arch support, a firm
heel, and thick flexible soles that will cushion
your feet and absorb shock. Before you buy a
new pair, be sure to walk in them in the store.
- 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
- Think of your walk in three parts. Warm
up by walking slowly for 5 minutes. Then,
increase your speed and do a fast walk.
Finally, cool down by walking slowly again
for 5 minutes.
- Do light stretching after your warm-up and
- Try to walk at least three times per week.
Each week, add 2 or 3 minutes to your walk.
If you walk less than three times per week,
you may need more time to adjust before you
increase the pace or frequency of your walk.
- To avoid stiff or sore muscles and joints, start
gradually. Over several weeks, begin walking
faster, going further, and walking for longer
periods of time.
- Set goals and rewards. Examples of goals
are participating in a fun walk or walking
continuously for 30 minutes.
- Keep track of your progress with a walking
journal or log.
- The more you walk, the better you may feel
and the more calories you may burn.
Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity
physical activity on most, if not all, days
of the week. If you cannot do 30 minutes
at a time, try walking for shorter amounts and
gradually working up to it.
Keep safety in mind when you
plan your route and the time of your
- If you walk at dawn, dusk, or night, wear a
reflective vest or brightly colored clothing.
- Walk in a group when possible.
- 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
Stretch gently after you warm up your muscles with an easy 5-minute walk, and again after you
cool down. Try doing the stretches listed below. Do not bounce or hold your breath when you
stretch. Perform slow movements and stretch only as far as you feel comfortable.
Reach one arm over your head and
to the side. Keep your hips steady
and your shoulders straight to the
side. Hold for 10 seconds and
repeat on the other side.
Lean your hands on a wall with
your feet about 3 to 4 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.
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.
Pull your right foot to your buttocks
with your right hand. Stand
straight and keep your knee
pointing straight to the ground.
Hold for 10 seconds and repeat
with your left foot and hand.
Sit on a sturdy bench or hard surface
so that your left leg is stretched out on
the bench with your toes pointing up.
Keep your right foot flat on the floor.
Straighten your back, and if you feel
a stretch in the back of your thigh,
hold for 10 seconds and repeat with
your right leg. [If you do not yet feel
a stretch, lean forward
from your hips until you
do feel a stretch.]
the First Step
Walking correctly is very
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
- Swing your arms as you
If you walk less than three
times per week, give yourself more than a week before increasing your pac and frequency.
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The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) is
a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the
National Institutes of Health, which is the Federal
Government’s lead agency responsible for biomedical
research on nutrition and obesity.
Publications produced by WIN are reviewed by both
NIDDK scientists and outside experts.
This publication is not copyrighted. WIN encourages
users of this brochure to duplicate and distribute as
many copies as desired.
Publication No. 07–4155
Updated March 2007
E-Text updated May 2007