Skip to Content

NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.

Healthy You

How walking can help you accomplish your fitness goals

Thursday, September 07, 2023 2:25 PM

By NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health

friends walkingSay you need to get in better shape, but you’re starting from square one.

Gyms and fitness can be intimidating, especially if it’s new to you.

But getting in shape doesn’t have to mean going all out with a super-strenuous workout. It doesn’t even require a gym membership or a personal trainer.

It can be as simple as walking.

“Regular, or daily walking is important for everyone, and if you haven’t started an exercise program it’s a great, low-impact way to begin,” said Michael Brandson, personal trainer at Northwest Community Hospital.

Some benefits of walking include lower blood pressure, stress relief, lower fasting blood sugar, weight management, mood-enhancement or anti-depression and better memory.

There are three things to consider when planning a walking program: frequency, intensity and time. Think about how often you’ll walk and for how long, as well as the level of difficulty (are you walking on flat ground or up hills?).

Sometimes it helps to start with small walks and gradually build up to longer ones, so you don’t abandon your plan. Being consistent with your walking schedule is most important.

Where to begin?

Planning a walking program before you start will help you stay consistent and track your progress.

  • Check in with your primary care doctor. Make sure your doctor is aware of your fitness plan and goals before you start. Your physician can help you set realistic goals based on your individual health and fitness level.
  • Set some goals. “Thirty minutes of walking per day can be a good place to start for many people, which is typically around 2,500-3,500 steps,” Brandson said. “However, setting realistic goals for yourself can help to provide a sense of accomplishment as you achieve them and build your fitness level.”
  • Put it on your calendar. Make walking a recurring appointment with yourself. Even blocking out 10 or 20 minutes for a walk break can help you work toward your goals. “Three 10-minute walks per day, perhaps in the morning, afternoon, and evening is an easy target to hit even when we are busy or traveling,” said Brandson. Whether you plan out a week at a time or a month, having it on your calendar will help ensure you stick with the plan.
  • Find a walking buddy. Walking with a friend will help you stick with your plan and might make it more enjoyable! Your walking buddy could also be an interesting podcast or favorite playlist.
  • Get proper shoes. Take time to try on a variety of walking shoes and purchase a pair with good support and cushioning. Running shoes can work as walking shoes as well.
  • Remember to stretch. Light stretching or mobilization of your feet, calves, and larger muscles such as hamstrings, hips and your quadriceps before/after every walk will help prevent soreness and injury.

The best thing about walking for fitness is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. Getting started is the hardest part.

From prevention to rehabilitation, the Wellness Center at Northwest Community Hospital provides an integrated approach to health and wellness through fitness and nutrition. Reshape your fitness routine at the Wellness Center.