Getting started: three ways to walk more

Expert tips to fit walking into your busy schedule

The journey to a healthy lifestyle begins with a single step. But knowing that the experts recommend walking 10,000 steps a day for your health doesn’t make it any easier to fit into your busy schedule. We asked three experts how they motivate themselves towards reaching their walking goal.

Tanya Berry, an assistant professor of physical education and recreation at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and research associate at the Alberta Centre for Active Living:

The No. 1 excuse people use is time – they can’t fit walking into their busy schedules. But there are 1,440 minutes in every day. Break your walking habit up into three 10-minute chunks a day: When you take public transit, get off a stop earlier; go for a walk at lunch; or go to a coffee shop that’s further away. Walk with your family, or walk the dog—in fact, evidence shows that people with dogs get more exercise. Make walking dates with someone; if I know someone’s waiting for me, I’m going to show up. My main walking buddy is my husband. A pedometer is a great motivational tool and helps you set goals. Even if the novelty lasts only a few months, it’s long enough to make walking regularly a habit. Your ultimate goal should be 10,000 steps a day – equal to about one hour and 40 minutes of walking.

Dianne Woodruff, a certified movement analyst and registered movement therapist at the Body-in-Motion clinic in Oakville, Ont.:

It seems like a small thing, but the right walking gear – a good pair of shoes, appropriate clothing – can make all the difference. When your shoes are well fitted and comfortable, they support your feet, ankles and the whole kinetic chain of the leg. You feel secure and you don’t have to worry about doing yourself harm – that’s motivational. As for walking gear, layers are the most important. In summer, I walk in shorts and a shirt that wicks away moisture. In fall and spring, I wear a layer next to my skin that wicks away moisture, plus a light fleece and maybe a windbreaker. In cold weather, I wear gloves and a ski headband. I add a fleece or down vest for extra warmth. I don’t walk on ice and snow because I find myself paying so much attention to where I put my feet, and I don’t enjoy the walk.

Lois Pohlod, a registered sport physiotherapist at the Calgary Winter Club who suffered heart-related health problems several years ago and walking was the only option she had for physical activity:

To make walking a priority, all I have to do is think about the health benefits: better circulation, stronger bones and muscles, lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, some cancers, stress, anxiety and depression. But to get those benefits, you must get your heart rate up when you walk. Normal heart rate is 60 to 80 beats per minute at rest. For a few days in a row, take your heart rate before getting up in the morning to get an idea of what your resting heart rate is. When you walk, your heart rate should be in the aerobic range – about 90 to 140 beats per minute, depending on your age. As you get fitter, your morning heart rate will be reduced. You can track your progress and know that your health is improving, too.