By Theresa Delvo, Physical Therapist
Director of Rehabilitation, Midwest Rehab
The weather has changed and now you’re ready to get out of the house. Walking is currently the most commonly reported form of physical activity among U.S. adults and is one of the simplest ways to exercise. It only requires a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothing and desire! Just a few extra steps each day is an easy way to maintain a healthier life. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week, at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week, or a combination of the two.
Start off your exercise or walking program slow and easy. For many, this means head out the door, walk for 10 minutes, and walk back. After a week, you’ll be ready to add five minutes to your daily walks. Continue to add five minutes until you are walking 30 minutes per day. When you have walked 30 minutes, you can increase your intensity by increasing your speed.
Checking your heart rate enables you to gauge the difficulty of your walk. You can check your heart rate by manually checking your pulse, or using a heart rate monitor. Most recommendations suggest beginning at 70-75% of your maximum heart rate (See Table 1). Keep in mind the standards of the traditional heart rate formulas do not fit everyone. You can also use the “talk test” to gauge your walking intensity. Talking pace means you have elevated breathing, but you can still carry a conversation. If you have been inactive for a long period of time or have any medical conditions, please consult with your physician before starting a new exercise program.
Remember to watch your posture. Walk tall, hold your head up, tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks and swing your arms. To help prevent injury, warm up first, walking slowly the first five minutes and end your walk with stretching. When you begin a fitness program, some muscle soreness the day after you exercise or walk is typical. Soreness is expected to go away with regular exercise, although if you experience pain or swelling, contact your doctor or physical therapist.
When picking out shoes, there are specific recommendations depending on the individual’s foot type, though general recommendations are to make sure the shoes fit properly and are comfortable. They should be wide enough for the toes to move freely, the heel should not slip and about a thumb width between your toes and the end of your shoe. Another suggestion is to go shoe shopping at the end of the day or after your walk when your feet might be slightly swollen. Replacing your shoes every 6-9 months or about every 250 miles is recommended to prevent pain or injury.
Staying motivated and developing a habit are the keys to a successful fitness or exercise program. Having a walking partner will help with accountability, and tracking your time and distance can also be beneficial. This can be as simple as using a journal to or as advanced as using one of the new technology products. Fitness apps for smart devices have become very popular and can track your progress, provide walking routes, track your distance and calories burned.
Start your spring off on the right foot and remember if you have questions on beginning a walking or exercise program, the Physical Therapists at Midwest Rehab at OCI can assess your movement, strength and flexibility and develop an exercise program to help you meet your fitness goals. Give us a call at 217.547.9108
Theresa received her bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy from Washington University in St. Louis. She has more than 25 years of therapy experience, primarily in the outpatient setting. Her professional interests focus on orthopedics, education and training to industry, workplace injury reduction and industrial rehabilitation.
This article was published in the April-June 2014 edition of ”FYI from OCI”, a quarterly publication created by the Orthopedic Center of Illinois. To see the full publication, click HERE.