Make walking a lifetime habit by starting today with a five minute walk. That’s right – just five minutes. It’s enough. Too many people begin with a brisk two-mile walk, and never come back!

Walking is an excellent, pleasurable aerobic activity. It can be a friendly social event or a quiet interval of solitude in your busy day. By walking regularly you can improve your health, your endurance, your self-esteem, your enjoyment of life, your appearance and your mental well being. Walking is almost injury-free. And no matter your age, it’s never too late to start walking.

It’s easy to begin. You can walk anywhere: down the street, in a park, mall or gym; or in your own home, walking around one or several rooms, or marching in place. You need no special clothing other than walking shoes. It’s something you do for yourself, so enjoy the time. You deserve it.

Here’s an easy way to launch your walking program:

  • Start Slowly. Begin walking 5 minutes a day at a moderately slow and easy pace. Use positive self-talk: tell yourself how much you like walking; reject any negative thoughts. Enjoy walking this way for 28 days; fitting it into your daily schedule. Your goal is to establish the habit first, before trying to improve fitness. Then progress slowly.
  • Benefit from the 28 day routine. It takes 28 days to develop a habit. Half those who begin exercising quit the first week. They set high goals and soon get sore and tired and discouraged. Avoid this common mistake by keeping to the 5 minute walk until you are ready to move on.
  • Make one week contracts. Set goals and write them into a contract. Add a reward, and then sign the contract. For example: “I will walk 5 minutes a day, at least 5 days this week. My reward will be a new CD.”
  • Proceed at your own pace. After 28 days, you are probably ready to increase time and/or intensity. Increase to 8-10 minutes a day for two or three weeks. Pick up the pace a bit. Later you can increase to 15 minutes. Keep in mind that you’re not in a race; you’re making a lifestyle change of critical importance in your life. By 6 months, you may be walking 20 to 30 minutes a day, perhaps one or two miles. You may choose to continue at this level, or increase as suits you and your lifestyle.
  • Walk 5-7 days a week. Walk daily, or almost daily and it is most likely to become a lifetime habit.
  • Keep a simple record. It’s a great feeling when you’ve walked 300 miles, or a full week – 168 hours. You’d never have thought it possible! Not everyone needs records, but keep it up for awhile. Mark each day on your chart, and watch the miles add up!
  • Reward yourself. At the end of each week give yourself the reward you promised. Make rewards special: something you buy for yourself, places to go or things to do. Don’t give food rewards though, keep food separate from rewards, punishment and emotional issues as much as possible, both for yourself and others
  • Find the exercise that’s right for you. Walking is great but you may find you prefer swimming, biking, running, dancing or playing softball. Try alternating a variety of activities. If you have physical disabilities, there are many enjoyable exercise programs just right for you. Investigate, and try out the possibilities.
  • Increase day-long activity. Keep active throughout the day. Use the stairs; walk instead of drive. If your work is sedentary, get up and move around every hour.
  • Consult your doctor. Walking is safe for nearly everyone, but consulting a doctor is advised if you are very inactive or at medical risk.
  • Keep up contracts and records for about 4 months. The secret? It takes 4 weeks (28 days) to change a habit, 4 months to make it a lifestyle change, 4 years – and it’s a vital part of your life. You’re a winner!

Frances M. Berg, M.S., a licensed nutritionist and family wellness specialist, is the editor and publisher of Healthy Weight Journal

SOURCE: HEALTHY WEIGHT JOURNAL MAY/JUNE 1994; 55. Copyrght 1994 by Frances M. Berg. This special ready-to-print feature may be used as a handout for educational purposes. (Please include this notice in your handout). It may not be reprinted in books or publications for sale without written permission from the publisher. HEALTHY WEIGHT JOURNAL, Healthy Living Institute, 402 S 14th St., Hettinger, ND 58639


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