get off the couch photoSpring is finally here, and it’s a perfect time of year to get outside for some exercise – and for folks who are looking to start an exercise regimen, the easiest way to do it is by walking.

Everyone should walk, jog or run at least 10,000 steps a day, but the average American only walks about 3,000 steps a day.  Where do you stand?  Pick up a pedometer the next time you are out and find out how many steps you take each day.

Want to increase your steps without adding extra workout time?  Park in the farthest row away from your office building.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Take a break every hour or two and walk for 10 minutes instead of heading to the coffee maker or soda machine.

Are you already walking, but looking to increase the intensity of your exercise?  Try adding jogging intervals.

There are some great programs that will take you from walking to jogging with a Couch to 5K program – My favorite is from Hal Higdon and can be found HERE.

Once you’ve decided to start a program, you should also keep in mind some basic safety tips for outdoor exercise – we adapted these from an article in Runner’s World:

Walking & Running Safety 101

  1. Face the traffic: If your walking routes do not have bike paths or sidewalks and you are forced to walk on the road, always walk in the direction facing oncoming traffic.
  2. Dress correctly: If you are training when it is still dark, ensure that you are dressed to be seen. Drivers at night or early mornings are rarely on the lookout for walkers, so you need to advertise your presence as vividly as possible. Wear light-colored or reflective clothing like shocking-pink or brilliant orange. Many brands of walking shoes have reflective material on the heels, and tracksuits, bibs and rain suits can now be purchased with reflective strips. Reflective belts are also extremely useful as they are easily noticed by drivers, and can be worn with little or no discomfort. The worst type of clothing to wear while training in the dark is a blue, black or navy tracksuit or T-shirt, which renders the walker virtually invisible to traffic. If you don’t have reflective gear or light colored clothing, pull a white T-shirt on over your tracksuit.
  3. Never walk alone & let someone know where you are going: If at all possible, walk with a training partner, especially in the evenings/at night. Not only does this increase your safety while walking; it also makes your training so much more enjoyable. In the absence of a training companion, always tell someone which route you will be walking and what time you expect to return.
  4. Walk defensively. Don’t simply assume that all road-users know about the ‘pedestrian has right-of-way’ rule. Many of them don’t.
  5. Lose the jewelry: Leave the valuables back home. I am always aghast at how many individuals go out walking literally dripping with jewels. The only accessory you need is a wristwatch with a stopwatch function.
  6. Vary your routes: Don’t establish regular patterns by walking the same route at the same time every day. Keep one step ahead of any would-be muggers by randomly varying your routes and the times that you go out. Not only is it safer, but it’s a lot more interesting!
  7. Self-defense: Some individuals carry hand-held spray devices that contain mace or something similar. These are designed to fit comfortably in your hand, are very light and easy to use. Just make sure that if you do need to use it, the wind is not blowing into your face at the time.
  8. Carry ID: Always carry some form of identification in case of an accident or medical emergency. If you are away from home on holiday or business, make a note of the address where you are staying.
  9. Keep right: If you’re walking on a cycling or pedestrian path, always walk on the right hand side so that faster walkers, runners and cyclists can easily pass. If you’re walking with one or more companions, don’t hog the path and prevent others from easily overtaking.
  10. Leave the headphones at home: That way you will be alert to any potential dangers, be it a dog, a fast-approaching car, or the sound of other people around you.  If you really want your music playing, be sure to keep it at a volume in which you can still hear what is going on around you.

The most important thing to remember is to continue to put one foot in front of the other – before you know it you’ll have reached your goal.


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