Resources for Walkers

by David W. Golann

Resources for Walkers

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:

  • Start slow. A walk around the block, or even just a few steps around the house, is a good start, especially if you haven’t done a lot of walking in a while.
  • Concentrate on good form. Your ears, shoulders, knees, and hips should be aligned. Don’t let your head and shoulders droop down. Tightening your abdominals and buttocks can help keep your pelvis and back aligned.
  • Get the right equipment — comfortable clothes (preferably in layers), well-fitting and comfortable sneakers, athletic socks, and a hat and sunscreen if you’re going to be walking outside.
  • Walk with a friend. This helps keep walking enjoyable and keeps you motivated. If you can’t find a walking buddy, look into one of the many walking clubs throughout the country. There is also no shortage of charity walks for many different worthwhile causes, though some of these may be too arduous for the beginning walker.
  • Finally, check with your doctor before committing to a walking program. This is especially important if you are over 65, have been sedentary for a while, are overweight, or have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart trouble, or joints that are damaged or unstable.

The following Web sites and books can help you get started with a walking program.

Web sites

About.com: Walking
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.

Arthritis Foundation
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.

Last Reviewed on January 10, 2013

David W. Golann was an Associate Editor at Arthritis Self-Management.

Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.

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