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ACSM Information On

Starting a Walking Program

Walking is one of the simplest and least expensive options to increase your physical activity level and improve your overall health. It is a
weight-bearing exercise that helps maintain bone density and is easy on joints. Walking at a brisk pace is considered moderate-intensity
physical activity, and doing this most days of the week for 30 minutes or more enables you to meet the criteria for physical activity for health
benefits recommended by ACSM and the American Heart Association.

A well-rounded physical activity program includes Becoming active significantly reduces exercising? You might have to resolve
aerobic exercise and strength training exercise, but some commonly regarded obstacles to
your risk for cardiovascular disease, Type
not necessarily in the same session. This blend helps
2 diabetes and obesity. starting your program, such as lack of
maintain or improve cardiorespiratory and muscular
fitness and overall health and function. Regular Walking works several major muscle time, feeling too tired, having caregiving
physical activity will provide more health benefits than groups the knee extensors responsibilities or not having a good
sporadic, high intensity workouts, so choose (quadriceps), hip extensors (hamstrings place to walk. To cope with these
exercises you are likely to enjoy and that you can and gluteal muscles) and muscles of the obstacles, identify a specific time and
incorporate into your schedule.
lower legs (gastrocnemius and soleus in schedule a walk, develop social support
ACSMs physical activity recommendations for healthy the back, anterior tibialis on the front, (walk with a significant other/spouse,
adults, updated in 2011, recommend at least 30 and arch muscles in the feet). These family member, or friend), get assistance
minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity to free up some time to walk and locate
muscles help pump blood back to the
(working hard enough to break a sweat, but still able
to carry on a conversation) five days per week, or 20
heart, and exercising them improves a safe place in which to walk (outdoors
minutes of more vigorous activity three days per circulation, muscular endurance and and/or indoors). A moderate-intensity
week. Combinations of moderate- and vigorous- dynamic balance. walk will help reduce fatigue and leave
intensity activity can be performed to meet this you feeling refreshed.
recommendation. WHAT DO I NEED TO START A 2. Am I prepared to start a walking
WALKING PROGRAM? program? Do I have good footwear and
Examples of typical aerobic exercises are:
Start with a pair of well-fitted walking comfortable clothing in which I can
Running shoes with a flexible sole that provides walk? Begin with a well-fitted pair of
Stair climbing good arch support and adequate cushion walking shoes. If you walk at dawn,
Cycling for your heel. dusk or night, wear light-colored
Rowing Make sure you have loose-fitting,
Cross country skiing reflective clothing to be more easily
comfortable clothing appropriate for seen. Additional items to use when
weather conditions. walking are a watch (especially
In addition, strength training should be performed a Make sure you have sunscreen and
minimum of two days each week, with 8-12 convenient if it has a stop-watch or
sunglasses to protect you from the sun. timing function) and a good pedometer.
repetitions of 8-10 different exercises that target all
major muscle groups. This type of training can be The following questions should be 3. Where can I walk safely? Does my
accomplished using body weight, resistance bands, neighborhood have sidewalks and well-
considered when preparing to start a
free weights, medicine balls or weight machines.
walking program: lit areas in which to walk? If not, are
there facilities nearby in which I can
walk (parks, recreational facilities, malls, WALKING TECHNIQUE TO STAYING ACTIVE PAYS OFF!
etc.)? Many shopping malls have INCREASE ENERGY EXPENDITURE Those who are physically active tend to live longer,
special hours when they are open for Maintain good posture. Keep your spinal healthier lives. Research shows that moderate
walkers prior to shopping hours. column erect, chin slightly up, shoulders physical activity such as 30 minutes a day of brisk
Walking around a mall perimeter is also relaxed and back a little, and use a walking significantly contributes to longevity. Even a
an option. Parks and schools may offer person with risk factors like high blood pressure,
confident but comfortable stride length.
diabetes or even a smoking habit can gain real
walking trails or outdoor tracks for Contact the heels lightly first with your feet
benefits from incorporating regular physical activity
walking. In addition, airports are great pointed straight ahead. As your leg into their daily life.
places in which to walk while waiting for strength and endurance improve, begin
planes to arrive or depart. using a slightly longer stride, push off the As many dieters have found, exercise can help you
toes, and use a more vigorous arm swing stay on a diet and lose weight. Whats more regular
The following questions should be exercise can help lower blood pressure, control blood
to utilize the upper body muscles to help
considered when developing a walking sugar, improve cholesterol levels and build stronger,
burn more calories. Use your breathing as
program: denser bones.
an intensity indicator easy breathing
1. How much time do I have available to
(casual pace), halting speech (brisk 3-4 THE FIRST STEP
spend walking each day? For health
mph pace) and cant speak (too fast). Before you begin an exercise program, take a fitness
benefits, walking can be done in one test, or substantially increase your level of activity,
bout each day or accumulated in shorter USING A PEDOMETER make sure to answer the following questions. This
bouts. Walking could be done early in A pedometer is a motion-sensing device physical activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q) will
the day, during work breaks or worn at the hip to count steps. help determine if youre ready to begin an exercise
lunchtime, or after work or dinner. Pedometers vary in sophistication, and routine or program.
2. How far or long should I walk? If you some can be programmed with your Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart
are walking at a brisk pace average step length to more accurately condition or that you should participate in physical
activity only as recommended by a doctor?
(approximately 3-4 mph for most estimate distance walked, calories
Do you feel pain in your chest during physical
people), you will cover one or two miles expended and total activity time. It is a activity?
in 30 minutes. ACSM recommends useful self-monitoring tool to help you In the past month, have you had chest pain when
people participate in a walk or other keep track of your total steps and distance you were not doing physical activity?
moderate intensity exercise for 150 walked. You can use the following step Do you lose your balance from dizziness? Do you
minutes or more a week for health index to classify your activity level based ever lose consciousness?
benefits. For weight loss, 250 minutes on steps per day. Keep in mind that if you Do you have a bone or joint problem that could be
or more of moderate-intensity activity is regularly participate in non-ambulatory made worse by a change in your physical activity?
recommended per week. Start slowly activity, your steps per day value will not Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs for your
blood pressure or a heart condition?
and build up to maintain your motivation accurately represent your activity level.
Do you know of any reason you should not
and avoid overuse injuries. Warm up
with a slower pace for at least five NUMBER OF STEPS ACTIVITY LEVEL participate in physical activity?
0-5,000 Sedentary If you answered yes to one or more questions, if you
minutes, increase your pace for 10- 30 are over 40 years of age and have recently been
minutes, then cool down by walking at a 5,000-7,499 Low Active
inactive, or if you are concerned about your health,
slower pace again for at least five 7,500-9,999 Somewhat Active
consult a physician before taking a fitness test or
minutes. If you are not active now, start 10,000-12,500 Active substantially increasing your physical activity. If you
with short distances and/or short time 12,500 or more Highly Active answered no to each question, then its likely that you
*Developed by C Tudor-Locke and DR Bassett Jr. (2004) can safely begin exercising.
periods of 10-15 minutes at a time.
Slowly increase your time and distance, A daily goal for most healthy adults is PRIOR TO EXERCISE
up to 20 percent every two weeks, until 10,000 steps per day, or approximately five Prior to beginning any exercise program, including the
you reach your goal. miles. If your baseline is under this level, activities depicted in this brochure, individuals should
3. How do I make and keep walking try to increase your steps by 1,000 per seek medical evaluation and clearance to engage in
fun? Try walking different routes in your day every two weeks until you reach your activity. Not all exercise programs are suitable for
neighborhood or mixing in a hill or two 10,000 steps per day. To increase your everyone, and some programs may result in injury.
with flatter terrain. Vary your pace. Walk Activities should be carried out at a pace that is
activity level and daily step counts, look
at a more casual or moderate pace for comfortable for the user. Users should discontinue
for opportunities to be more active. Park
participation in any exercise activity that causes pain
a couple of blocks, then increase your further away from your destination, if it is or discomfort. In such event, medical consultation
pace (power walk or speed walk) for a safe to do so, and take the stairs instead should be immediately obtained.
block. Walking with a friend is a good of the escalator or elevator. Even small
way to combine social time with amounts of additional activity increase
exercise. Some people enjoy walking total calorie expenditure and can make a
with music. Some music is geared more difference in your fitness level and overall
for exercise with energizing tunes and a health over time.
beat or tempo suitable for walking. Be
sure to remain aware of traffic and your Becoming and staying regularly active is
surroundings. Keep track of your time one of the keys to good health and weight
and distance walked each day. Keeping maintenance, and walking is an easy way
a daily log tracks your progress and to become and stay active for life.
keeps you motivated.

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without alteration and the following statement is added: Reprinted with permission of the American College of Sports Medicine. Copyright 2011 American College of Sports
Medicine. This brochure is a product of ACSMs Consumer Information Committee. Visit ACSM online at