Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health
Ready to reap the benefits of walking? Here's how to get started — and stay motivated.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Can you really walk your way to fitness? You bet! Get started today.
Know the benefits
Physical activity doesn't need to be complicated. Something as simple as a daily brisk walk can help you live a healthier life.
For example, regular brisk walking can help you:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improve your mood
- Improve your balance and coordination
The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits.
Consider your technique
Turning your normal walk into a fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements. Ideally, here's how you'll look when you're walking:
- Your head is up. You're looking forward, not at the ground.
- Your neck, shoulders and back are relaxed, not stiffly upright.
- You're swinging your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows. A little pumping with your arms is OK.
- Your stomach muscles are slightly tightened and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward.
- You're walking smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
Plan your routine
As you start your walking routine, remember to:
March 19, 2016
- Get the right gear. Choose shoes with proper arch support, a firm heel and thick flexible soles to cushion your feet and absorb shock. Wear comfortable clothes and gear appropriate for various types of weather. If you walk outdoors when it's dark, wear bright colors or reflective tape for visibility.
- Choose your course carefully. If you'll be walking outdoors, avoid paths with cracked sidewalks, potholes, low-hanging limbs or uneven turf. If the weather isn't appropriate for walking, consider walking in a shopping mall that offers open times for walkers.
- Warm up. Walk slowly for five to 10 minutes to warm up your muscles and prepare your body for exercise.
- Cool down. At the end of your walk, walk slowly for five to 10 minutes to help your muscles cool down.
- Stretch. After you cool down, gently stretch your muscles. If you'd rather stretch before you walk, remember to warm up first.
See more In-depth
- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/PAGUIDELINES/guidelines/default.aspx. Accessed Dec. 28, 2015.
- Americans are walking more to improve their health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/walking-counts/. Accessed Dec. 29, 2015.
- Starting a walking program. American College of Sports Medicine. https://www.acsm.org/public-information/brochures-fact-sheets/brochures. Accessed Dec. 29, 2015.
- Walking: A step in the right direction. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/walking-step-right-direction/Pages/walking-step-right-direction.aspx. Accessed Dec. 28, 2015.
- Seiger LH, et al. Walking for Fitness. 6th ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt Publishing; 2012.