Walking for exercise can help people with arthritis

Use these tips to help make walking for exercise a regular part of your lifestyle.

The start of a new year is a great time to develop an action plan and begin a walking program. Walking is one of the best exercises we can do for our health. Many chronic conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, obesity and diabetes (just to name a few) can improve and be less painful when you walk. One should anticipate and handle problems associated with starting a walking program.

When walking you shouldn’t start out as if you are in a race. The Arthritis Foundation has a range of resources for walking that will keep you moving and keep you safe.

Include the following four stages each time you walk for exercise:

  1. Warm up by walking slowly for 3-5 minutes. This warms up your muscles and makes you more flexible before exercising.
  2. Gently stretch for 4-5 minutes. This will prevent shin pain and sore muscles as you increase the length of time you walk for.
  3. Walk for 5-30 minutes or more at a pace where you are able to talk but not sing.
  4. Cool down for 3-5 minutes. Allow your heart rate to return to a more resting level, so the blood in your legs does not pool.

Other walking tips include:

  • Pick up your pace: Walk as if you have somewhere to go! This should be a moderate pace.
  • Increase your time and track your progress: If you are a beginner at walking for exercise and want to improve, try increasing your time each week by 5 minutes.
  • Monitor for intensity: You should be able to talk while walking. If you have discomfort in your side or you can’t catch your breath, slow down.
  • Check your heart rate: If you feel your heart racing then slow down
  • Do something different: Find ways to make your walking more enjoyable and less boring. Finding new trails or creating your own (with a buddy) is fun to do.
  • Find a buddy to walk with:  Walking with a friend can help motivate you to walk and if you do not have good balance, having someone with you who can help support you when needed can be safer.
  • Have comfortable shoes with support: If you don’t want blisters or aching feet, make sure your shoes are comfortable. They should have lots of support and generally thick threads.
  • Stop the excuses: It is easy for exercise to be put on the back burner, don’t! This is the most important thing you can do for a long healthy and pain-free life.

Walking is so rewarding. You can see the beauty of outdoors, enjoy the fresh air and feel better. Walk your way to good health in 2018!

For more information on healthy living, visit Michigan State University Extension.

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