by David W. Golann
Walking, one of the simplest and most ordinary forms of exercise, is also one of the most beneficial and enjoyable. People with arthritis may find it particularly helpful. Why is walking such a good choice?
First of all, walking is good for you. It can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes. And because it is a weight-bearing exercise, it can help strengthen bones in your legs, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and the fractures associated with it. Walking has also been shown to improve mood and help people sleep better. Finally, walking can keep joint cartilage healthy and strengthen the muscles in your legs, helping them better support the joints — all of which can reduce pain.
Also, walking is relatively easy. For most people, it is something they do — and have done — virtually every day of their lives. When compared with organized sports or even with jogging, walking is straightforward; there is not too much to learn. Furthermore, walking is versatile. It allows you to exercise in your own space and at your own pace. You can do it indoors and out, at different speeds and for different lengths of time. Because it is so versatile, there are lots of ways to get more walking in your life. Some people like to incorporate walking into their normal daily routine, for example, by walking to appointments or on errands. Others prefer a relaxing ramble on an out-of-the-way trail. Still others take time out to go for a short stroll around the neighborhood or step up on the treadmill (either at home or at the gym).
How much should you aim to walk? The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise at least five days a week. For some, this program may be too ambitious, at least at first. Remember, though, that these 30 minutes don’t need to be done at once. They can, for example, be broken into three daily bouts of 10 minutes.
For those just starting out with a walking program, the following are a few tips to keep in mind:
The following Web sites and books can help you get started with a walking program.
This large site is dedicated entirely to walking and includes a frequently updated blog by walking expert Wendy Bumgardner. Look for tabs at the top of the page for sections on walking for weight loss, different walking workouts and how to get started with them, and appropriate walking gear.
American Nordic Walking Association
Nordic walkers use modified ski poles to help them along as they walk. Nordic walking offers a more efficient workout and can also reduce stress on the joints, making it a good choice for some people with arthritis. Go to the above Web site and click on Nordic Walking for information on Nordic walking technique and necessary equipment.
American Volkssport Assoicoiation
Although Volkssport originated in Europe, there are over 300 Volkssport clubs in America. They are noncompetitive walking clubs for walkers of all abilities. Log on to their Web site and click on “Locate Walking Clubs” to find contact information for a Volkssport club in your area, or call (210) 659-2112 for more information.
The Arthritis Foundation’s Web site on walking includes a 12-week walking plan you can print out and use to begin your own walking routine. The site also has links to more information on walking, including an article on foot care.
In addition, the Arthritis Foundation holds Arthritis Walks every year to raise money for arthritis research. The events are held throughout the country and are a great opportunity to walk and support a good cause. Most take place in the spring or fall. Log on to the Arthritis Walk page, or call (877) 232-2898, to find an Arthritis Walk near you.
This Web site can help you find a walking trail near you. From the main site, click on “Explore Trails” and then enter your zip code or address and the type of trail you’re looking for to locate one near you, or you can look at lists of popular trails and locate lodging near a trail or path you’d like to visit. For a description or pictures of the trails, click on the trail name. You can also sign up with the Web site (for free) for maps of the trails. Many of the trails featured on this site are rail trails, which are flatter and smoother than most traditional hiking trails. While this can make for easier walking, it also means they are often used by bicyclists as well as pedestrians.
This simply-named Web site has advice for all levels of walkers. There are tips on how to get started and keep up a good pace; what shoes and socks to wear; and how to warm up for your walk and cool down when it’s done. There is even a section on weight loss, including some recipes.
The Walking Site
The Walking Site has advice for all levels of walkers on subjects such as shoes, and it also includes motivational stories from those who have succeeded with a walking program. In addition, the site has a lot of advice on training for an ambitious goal — a walking marathon.
The Complete Guide to Walking
For Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness
by Mark Fenton
The Lyons Press, Guilford, Connecticut, 2008
This book takes you through a 52-week walking program, describing in detail how to get started with the program and how to stay committed and motivated. There is information on walking gear and stretching, along with sections on walking with children, choosing a treadmill, and avoiding injuries. The latter chapters of the book focus on honing your walking skills so that you get more out of your walks. The book is filled with colorful charts and pictures, as well as ready-made tables that allow you to track your progress throughout the year.
Fitness Walking for Dummies
by Liz Neporent
For Dummies, New York, 1999
Fitness Walking for Dummies has information on evaluating your health — specifically, your weight, resting heart rate, flexibility, and strength — and then setting appropriate walking goals. The book breaks walking into four categories, depending on how fast you are able and want to go, and has advice on each category. There is also advice on stretching and walking on treadmills.
The Spirited Walker
Fitness Walking for Clarity, Balance, and Spiritual Connection
by Carolyn Scott Kortge
HarperOne, New York, 1998
The Spirited Walker explores both the physical and mental benefits of walking, its “spirit and sole.” There is advice on how to set goals and stick with them as well as how to make walking a time of clarity and “mindfulness.”
Walking: A Complete Guide to the Complete Exercise
by Casey Meyers
Ballantine Books, New York, 2007
In this book, the 79-year-old author makes a case for walking as the “complete exercise” and the perfect antidote to a sedentary life. He takes an in-depth look at different kinds and levels of walking, with advice on crafting a program that fits your needs. The book also includes chapters on walking gear and walking for weight loss.
Walk With Ease
Your Guide to Walking for Better Health,
Improved Fitness and Less Pain, 3rd edition
The Arthritis Foundation’s guide to walking has lots of advice on developing a safe and appropriate walking plan and sticking with it. It includes information on stretching and monitoring your heart rate. A DVD version of Walk With Ease is also available by calling (800) 283-7800.
Last Reviewed January 10, 2013
David W. Golann was an Associate Editor at Arthritis Self-Management.
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