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Fitness: Walking for Wellness

British Columbia Specific Information

Physical activity has so many benefits to your health. It can help you get to and stay at a healthy body weight, reduce the risk of bone fractures if you have osteoporosis, and can reduce the risk of many other illnesses like cancer and heart disease. For most people, participating in physical activity is safe. However, some people should check with their health care provider or a qualified exercise professional before they start becoming more physically active.

For information on the benefits of physical activity, setting goals and overcoming barriers, as well as safety tips and precautions, visit the Physical Activity section of our website.

If you have questions about physical activity or exercise, call 8-1-1 to speak to a qualified exercise professional, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm Pacific Time, or you can Email Physical Activity Services. You can also leave a message after hours.

Introduction

Walking is one of the easiest ways to get the exercise you need to stay healthy.

Experts recommend at least 2½ hours of moderate activity (such as brisk walking, brisk cycling, or yard work) a week.footnote 1 It's fine to walk in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.

  • If you're worried about how brisk walking might affect your health, talk with your doctor before you start a walking program.
  • Start with a short-term goal. For example, walk for 5 or 10 minutes every day. Or increase your number of steps by 300 to 500 each day.
  • After you've made walking a habit, set a longer-term goal. You may want to set a goal of walking briskly for at least 30 minutes a day or work up to 10,000 steps a day. You can try to do this 5 days a week or more.
  • You can use a phone app or wear a pedometer to track your steps each day.
  • To stay motivated, find a walking partner, such as a family member, friend, or co-worker. Daily dog walks are also a great way to keep up your walking routine.

How can you make a walking program part of your life?

Think of walking as an easy way to burn calories and stay fit while you go about your daily routine. You can make walking an important part of your life by getting friends and family to join you and by finding new ways to put steps in your day.

Walk with others

  • Ask family members, friends, and co-workers to join you. Set goals together.
  • Join a walking group or club.
  • Set a goal to take part in an organized fitness walk.
  • Walk a dog every day.
  • Plan family outings around walks together. Being physically active with kids sets an example they'll follow as they grow older.

Add steps whenever you can

  • Schedule walks on your daily calendar.
  • Use a phone app or buy a pedometer. They count how many steps you take. The first time you use it, count how many steps you normally take in a day. Track your activity every day, and set a goal for increasing the number of steps each day. At first, try to add 300 to 500 steps to your day. Then work toward 2,000 more steps a day. A good long-term goal is to get 10,000 steps a day.
  • Instead of watching TV or going out to eat, go out for a walk.
  • At work, get up and move around once an hour.
  • When possible, walk to the grocery store, doctor appointments, work, school, or shopping. You could walk a lap around the grocery store before you start shopping.
  • Park your car farther away from work or other places you're going.
  • Walk around your neighbourhood or around a park.
  • Walk during TV commercials.

Be safe

  • Know your surroundings. Walk in a well-lighted, safe place.
  • Carry a cell phone for emergencies.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and socks that cushion and support your feet.
  • Pay attention to your walking surface. Use sidewalks and paths.
  • If you usually walk outside and the weather is bad, take comfortable shoes to the mall and walk several laps inside.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you are active. This is very important when it's hot out and when you do intense exercise. Take a water bottle with you when you walk.

References

Citations

  1. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011). Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines For Adults. Available online: http://www.csep.ca/CMFiles/Guidelines/CSEP_PAGuidelines_adults_en.pdf. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Credits

Current as of: September 10, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Thomas M. Bailey, MD, CCFP - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Heather O. Chambliss, PhD, FACSM - Exercise Science
Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine