Samantha Kovalchek, PT, DPT
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Starting a walking program is an excellent way to meet this goal. I often prescribe walking programs to my patients as part of their home exercise program, however, I often get feedback that they have no idea where to start.
Here are some tips I give to my patients for motivation on how to get started:
Start small: Simple and small changes to your daily routine can be all you need to get started. Begin by walking 10 minutes a day and gradually increase your time by 2 minutes daily until you can tolerate at least 30 minutes of walking at a moderate pace.
Pacing: Using a fitness watch with a heart rate monitor is an excellent way you can ensure you are achieving a moderate pace. Check your heart rate before you begin exercising. A normal resting heart rate should be between 60-100 beats per minute. During moderate exercise, your heart rate should rise between 20-30 beats per minute.
During this time, many American’s are finding themselves working from home. For many, that could mean spending more time sitting down in front of a screen. A walking program is a perfect way to break up the day and keep your mind fresh! Here are some tips for when to fit it in:
- Take a 10-15 minute brisk walk before or after meals.
- Take a 10-15 minute brisk walk during your breaks while working.
- Include walking up and down steps as part of your walking program for an added challenge.
Interval training: Interval training is alternating between performing bouts of higher intensity and lower intensity exercise and can be an excellent way to build up your pace. An interval training walking program can be performed both on a treadmill or with outdoor walking. Start with longer periods of walking at normal pace or “down time” and shorter periods of walking at a brisk pace or “up time”, then gradually reduce the duration of your “down time.”
Example: 5 minutes of normal pace walking, 1 minute of brisk walking for 20 minutes. Progress until the “Up times” and “down times” are equal or until the “up time” exceeds the “down time.” If performing these exercises on a treadmill, you can add elevation during the “Up times” to further increase the intensity.
The key to success is to make this a part of your everyday routine. Personally, I like to exercise first thing in the morning. Exercising in the morning wakes me up and sets me up for a successful day full of healthy choices.