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Are you ready to start walking and don't know where to begin? We'll lead the way. Walking is one of the easiest, most enjoyable, and most profitable forms of exercise. All you need is a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothing, and desire.

HOW TO START: First of all, start out slow and easy. Just walk out the door. For most people this means head out the door, walk for 10 minutes, and walk back. That's it? Yes, that's it. Do this every day for a week. If this was easy for you, add five minutes to your walks next week (total walking time 25 minutes). Keep adding 5 minutes until you are walking as long as desired. Use one of the plans on the following page as an easy guide.

If you're new to walking, start off with slow, short sessions and build your way up gradually. Do not worry at all about speed in the beginning. After you have been walking for several weeks you can slowly start picking up your pace. If you have a medical condition or any health concerns be sure to check with your doctor for advice before you begin a routine.

WATCH your posture. Walk tall. Think of elongating your body. Hold your head up and eyes forward. Your shoulders should be down, back and relaxed. Tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks and fall into a natural stride.

Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after walking. Incorporate a warm up, cool down and stretches into your routine. Start your walk at a slow warm up pace, stop and do a few warm up / flexibilty drills. Then walk for the desired length of time. End your walk with the slower cool down pace and stretch well after your walk. Stretching will make you feel great and assist in injury prevention.

The toughest thing about starting a fitness program is developing a habit. Walking daily will help (exercising a minimum of 5 days a week is a good goal). You should walk fast enough to elevate your heart rate, but you should not be gasping for air.

In the beginning don't worry about speed or distance. Just get out the door on a regular basis. After you have formed the habit you will want to evaluate your program and your goals. Here are some general guidelines depending on your goals:

If you are walking for general health benefits try to walk a minimum of 30 minutes a day, most days of the week, at a "talking" pace. (Talking pace means you have elevated breathing, but you can still carry a conversation.)

To improve cardiovascular fitness you should walk 3 to 4 days a week, 20 to 30 minutes at a very fast pace. At this pace you are breathing harder but not gasping for air. Warm up and cool down in addition to the time spent at the faster pace.

If you are walking for weight loss you will probably need to a minimum 45 to 60 minutes five days a week at a moderate to brisk pace. Walking faster will burn more calories in the same amount of time. However, do increase both mileage and pace slowly to prevent injury.

To get the most out of your walk follow these easy tips for walking faster and if you really want to increase your workout or speed consider learning to racewalk.

10,000 STEPS

Another way to begin your walking program is to add more activity throughout your day. Using a pedometer to track steps can be a great motivational tool. A reasonable goal for most people is to increase average daily steps each week by 500 per day until you can easily average 10,000 per day. Click here to read more

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