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A Step in the Right Direction

"Walking is man's best medicine" – Hippocrates

As spring arrives, you may be thinking about getting outside and increasing your activity. Starting a walking program is a great way to be more physically active year-round and can lead to many health benefits. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, like brisk walking, daily.

People walking down a country roadThe health benefits from walking include:

  • Prevents or manages various chronic conditions; including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers
  • Reduces the risk of stroke
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Aids in maintaining a healthy weight
  • Manages stress and improves moods
  • Protects against dementia
  • Strengthens bones
  • Increases energy levels

In a study conducted by Harvard Medical School among female nurses, the risk of heart disease could be reduced by 35% and the risk of stroke could be reduced by 34% by walking at least three hours a week. Walking is one of most popular physical activities among adults. As a low barrier exercise, it does not require special equipment and can be done by many different ages and activity levels.

Getting started with a walking program is simple:

  1. Make a Plan: Decide where and when you will walk. Choose a favorite place you enjoy walking and come up with a backup plan in case of inclement weather or time constraints.
  2. Get Ready: Be sure you have supportive walking shoes and appropriate clothes for the weather, especially if you are walking outside.
  3. Set Yourself Up for Success: If you have not been exercising regularly, work up to walking for thirty minutes by breaking your walk into 10 minute increments throughout your day. Try walking 10 minutes in the morning, during your lunch break and in the evening until you have worked up to 30 minutes total. Do not get discouraged if you miss a day here and there; just pick back up the next day.
  4. Go! Remember to stretch, warm up and cool down each time you walk.
  5. Keep Safety in Mind: Use a safe, well-lit path if you are walking outside after dark. Wear reflective clothing and carry a phone and ID with you.
  6. Make It a Habit: Choose a time of day to walk that fits into your schedule and make it a part of your daily routine. When you are ready, add more time and intensity to your walk to keep your plan interesting and challenging.

Any activity is more fun if you do it with a friend. Find a walking buddy to make the time pass more quickly and to stay motivated to stick with your new walking plan. If a friend or family member isn't available, listen to your favorite music or podcast while you walk. A dog can also be a great walking companion! Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.

"Walk to be healthy, walk to be happy" – Charles Dickens

Article provided by Krystal Diehl Moyers, M.Ed, CHES, Health Educator of Community Outreach of Augusta Health. If you have any questions related to this article, please contact Dana Breeding, RN at (540) 932-4988 or via email dbreeding [at] augustahealth.com .