The first step is the simplest — get moving.
Adults need at least two and a half hours of aerobic exercise per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aerobic activities such as brisk walking, running swimming or bicycling should be done for no less than 10 minutes at a time to see health benefits.
Less than half of all adults get the recommended amount of physical activity, according to a CDC report released last August.
The report ranked walking as the most popular choice among those who are physically active. More than 60 percent of adults now walk for transportation, fun or exercise for at least 10 minutes a week, up from 56 percent in 2005.
“Walking is one of the easiest and best forms of exercise. All you need are your legs and a pair of shoes,” said Dr. Anitra Batie, a primary care physician at Walker Baptist Medical Center.
Batie added that walking can improve a patient’s cardiovascular health, decrease stress, aid in weight loss and decrease joint pain — all for free.
Also, the CDC report links inactivity to a higher risk for early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers.
Batie recommends that beginning walkers start out with five to 10 minutes per day, increasing the pace and distance as they become more comfortable.
She suggested a goal of walking at least 30 minutes per day for five or six days a week for patients looking to improve their cardiovascular health.
To aid in weight loss, a minimum of 60 minutes of walking at a brisk pace for five or six days per week is necessary.
“You should be able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance while walking at a brisk pace. If you are unable to talk, you may be pushing yourself too hard too soon,” Batie said.
Batie’s other tips include wearing bright clothing and a good pair of tennis shoes and carrying a cell phone in case of emergencies.
Also, maintain good posture by walking tall with shoulders back and arms swinging loosely at your sides.
Be attentive, especially while walking on uneven surfaces or roads.
The CDC report lists several ways that government and businesses can encourage more people to be active.
For example, people are more likely to walk in places where they feel safe from traffic, crime and other hazards.
Local leaders can consider walking when creating long-range community plans, promote walking paths with easy-to-read signs and keep existing walking areas in good condition.
In addition, employers can create and support walking programs for employees and identify safe walking paths around the work place.