Tips for walking yourself to better health

Walking is an often overlooked form of exercise that is actually quite beneficial. Taking on walking is likely to be less daunting than joining a gym. Here are tips to get you started.

Tips for walking yourself to better health

Getting started

If you are not used to doing much walking, here are some tips.

  • Start slowly and gradually pick up your pace after the first minute or two.
  • Keep your shoulders back and relaxed and your abdomen tucked in to protect your lower back.
  • The best rhythm and stride are the ones that feel most comfortable.
  • If you want to increase your pace, take short quick strides — your feet will more easily get into a rhythm and you will move at a faster speed.

Get a pedometer

  • A pedometer is a cheap step-counting device that is very useful if you are trying to increase your overall level of daily activity.
  • Just strap one on to your waistband and go about your life. It's a simple way of measuring just how active you are. You won't be able to resist taking a look at your step count — and that could inspire you to increase it.
  • Wearing a pedometer will increase your level of physical activity, and many users also experience significant reductions in blood pressure and Body Mass Index (BMI).

Step by step: understand the numbers

  • The ideal is to complete at least 10,000 steps of walking per day.
  • If you are fairly inactive, you probably take around 3,000 steps a day.
  • An average daily level is 7,000 steps for men and 5,000 steps for women.
  • In trials, people wearing pedometers take an average of 2,491 more steps a day than people not wearing them. (2,000 steps is about a 1.5 kilometres/one mile, so that represents nearly 14.5 kilometres/nine miles per week.)

Set goals

  • Having a target number of steps to aim for has been proven to increase step counts more effectively than aiming for a 30 minute brisk walk daily.
  • Experts recommend aiming for at least 10,000 steps a day, which will burn around 500 calories, or 3,500 calories over the course of a week. As long as you don't increase your calorie consumption, you'll lose 0.5 kilograms (one pound) for the price of a little extra footwork.
  • If your starting level is a lot lower than the average, simply set interim goals — 5,000 steps a day, then 6,000 and so on.
  • The more you can do, the better. One study involved 14 researchers from around the world and showed that, for effective weight control, women under 40 and men under 50 should aim for as many as 12,000 steps a day.
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