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Walking, the worlds cheapest exercise

"The cheapest form of physical activity, which is available for everyone from children to adults and is the walk," says Caroline R. Richardson, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.

ANN ARBOR, MI – Walking isn’t such a difficult thing – most of us have been doing it since we were very young. But starting and maintaining a regular walking program can be daunting, even though the benefits have been well documented.

Caroline R. Richardson, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, has some suggestions for people who want to get started. She also offers reminders of the myriad benefits of beginning an exercise program.

Richardson’s five tips for starting a walking program:

1. Find a buddy with whom you can walk regularly. A friend can encourage you to walk on days when you aren’t motivated and can help you continue walking at a good pace.

2. Use a pedometer. This will help you keep track of your steps and can be an excellent motivator. “Perhaps the most important thing to do is to get yourself a pedometer. Pedometers really help you see how much you’re walking and see when you’re successful,” Richardson says. Studies at the U-M Health System and Veterans Affairs are exploring the benefits of pedometer use.

3. Schedule regular walks in a PDA or calendar. This helps to ensure that you have a set time every day for walking, Richardson notes.

4. If you have chronic medical problems such as heart disease or diabetes, you might want to check with you doctor to make sure a walking program is safe for you.

5. Start slowly if you need to – just get started. “Just get up and walk around the block,” Richardson says. “Somewhere between three and four miles an hour should be your goal, but if you have to work up to that gradually, it’s better to walk slowly than to do nothing.”

Seven health benefits of walking:

1. Improvement of cardiovascular function and possibly a reduction in the chances of having a heart attack

2. Potential weight loss or weight control

3. Reduction in blood pressure

4. Has been found to be helpful in the prevention and treatment of depression

5. Has a positive impact on the health of people with diabetes

6. Helps build endurance and muscle strength

7. Helps build and maintain bones and muscles. (SOURCE: University of Michigan)

Photo: Fotolia

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