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An Effective Walking Program for the Very Unfit

Walking is beneficial in numerous ways.

Walking is beneficial in numerous ways.

Who Can Use This Program?

There is a disheartening trend out there. Most walking programs for beginners start with ten to fifteen minutes of brisk walking. Everybody can walk fifteen minutes, right?

The truth is that many can't. There are individuals who fought a long illness or injury, during which physical activity was severely limited. Others got stuck in a sedentary lifestyle that led to weight gain and body weakness.

This article is suitable for anyone who is in the worst shape of their lives, endurance-wise. The program is flexible enough to allow you to choose the location and time that suits you best. It's also free. The only cost is a little dedication.

What Will I Learn From This Article?

  • Learn what equipment you need
  • Understand some of the great benefits of walking
  • Become familiar with health contraindications
  • Develop prompts to use when inspiration is lacking
  • Discover ways to kill boredom during a walk
  • Develop a simple yet effective program that will prepare you for greater challenges
  • Additional safety tips

Here Are Just Some of the Benefits of Walking

  • Weight loss
  • More control over diabetes, blood sugar, blood pressure, and stress
  • Stronger bones, muscles, and circulation
  • Great-looking legs
  • Better quality sleep
  • Improved heart health
  • Longevity
  • Reduced risk of developing diseases caused by a sedentary lifestyle
Only wear comfortable shoes. Avoid those that slip, pinch or cause blisters.

Only wear comfortable shoes. Avoid those that slip, pinch or cause blisters.

Do I Need Any Equipment?

This might go against the grain, but consider ditching the calorie counter and pedometer. The main focus of the program is endurance. When you are very unfit, every small success is critical to keep you dedicated. You might not need the extra pressure of having to meet a certain amount of calories or steps.

Keep in mind that this is only a suggestion. A successful program always supports a person's goals. If you want to count your C's or snap on a pedometer, go right ahead!

What to Bring Along

  • A way to tell the time
  • A notebook and pen
  • Water and a healthy snack

A Word Of Caution

A gentle walking program is suitable for all ages, genders and most health problems. If you can walk, you can start. However, as with any new exercise program, one must not ignore any pre-existing health issues. If you have a chronic or serious condition, research the limits and then work with your limitations, not against them.

Watch Those Blood Sugar Gremlins

Any physical activity can affect blood sugar levels. When a person pushes things too far, things can go wrong really fast. A sudden drop in blood sugar often happens when you have not exercised in a while.

Here's why. During exercise, your body burns glucose as fuel and also releases hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. Exercising on an empty stomach is the same as expecting your car to drive across town with insufficient fuel in the tank. The same with keeping it in the garage for years—it just won't work properly.

Regular exercise and glucose management will prevent an episode. When a workout session is too strenuous and blood sugar drops, the experience is scary and can even be deadly.

Signs of Low Blood Sugar

  • Muscle weakness and exhaustion
  • A sudden sense of panic, racing thoughts
  • Vision distortion and confusion
  • Sweaty palms
  • Palpitations
  • Balancing difficulties, dizziness
  • At worst, blackouts or seizures

Water and a Snack

A sugar drop is easy to prevent or correct - just nibble on a snack. The best snack is a combination of carbohydrates and protein. A sandwich with a protein filling is perfect (egg, meat, etc.). A lot of walkers also enjoy fruit like an apple or banana. The general guideline is to snack 30 minutes to an hour before walking. Since everyone is unique, you must find the sweet spot that works for you.

Equally important is hydration. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Similar to your snack, experiment with the time frame that suits. The 30 minutes-to-an-hour rule also applies. Never drink a huge amount of water right before you start—it might make you nauseous. As your walks get longer, you can sip fluids during and also afterward.

The Program

Start this powerful program by strolling along for exactly sixty seconds. Before you think it crazy, read on! When you are extremely unfit, you know it. Even worse, most people's minds tell them that they cannot exercise for long because they will get exhausted or something equally unpleasant. The initial minute is to teach the monkey mind that you are capable and this first lap also starts your habit of walking.

Habit + Self-Confidence = Success

Keeping your sessions at one to five minutes, walk a minimum of three days a week. It does not matter which days but as you start walking more regularly, walk on alternate days to give your muscles time to recover—you will actually get fit faster that way.

For now, stay at a stroll. There should be no exertion, pain or tiredness. You can ramp up the intensity later.

What Is the Notebook for?

The notebook records your progress and thoughts. After a walk, note the date, time of day, how long you walked and your thoughts. Always write down how you felt during the walk—sluggish, energized or just alright. Soon, you will notice what time of day or mindset makes you perform better. You'll notice what holds you back. Use these things to improve your walking.

You can also record the weather. Did you know that some people are weather-sensitive? When air pressure drops, a sensitive person can feel drowsy, exhausted and even ill. Humidity and temperature also affect how the body performs. When you check your notebook, you might be surprised to see which weather conditions accompanied your good and bad days.

Next, write how you aced that minute like a professional. The logbook is there to record your progress and help you to keep track of your "program days." As such, you are welcome to add personal notes and goals.

New places and different paces will keep your fitness walking fresh and interesting.

New places and different paces will keep your fitness walking fresh and interesting.

The Next Level

At the start of every new week, add another minute. This way, you ease into fitness in a way that is encouraging and safe. That being said, there is no need to be rigid. As the weeks go by (and this will happen), you will find that adding one minute at a time feels like holding back. You are becoming fitter and your endurance is screaming "Hey, is this all there is?" Then it's fine to leap with two minutes instead of one.

The only caveat is this—whatever amount of time you add, be sure that the pace can be maintained. A big reason why people skip exercise is discouragement. Adding one minute is an obtainable goal. As fitness makes it more possible, make sure that you can maintain a jump from, say, ten to fourteen minutes. Otherwise, be patient and add two minutes. Slow and steady will always win the race. Discouragement never does.

There it is. A program without fireworks or fame. Yet, it will foster fitness more consistently than a hyped-up DVD or a dramatic regime that cannot be maintained. You decide when to add more minutes. What time you ultimately choose as your daily limit depends on your goals. This program can go from easy (few minutes at a stroll) to very challenging (walking for longer periods or upping the intensity).

Why Is It Difficult to Maintain Exercise Habits?

We've all been there. Excitement carries us through the first few days, then the honeymoon ends. We know that exercise is good for us. It prolongs life and adds quality, even in old age. So, why is it so hard to show up?

1. Not Enough Time

Life can be insanely stressful, complicated and busy. During a hectic day, it is easy to postpone healthy habits and relaxing hobbies. Don't beat yourself up. A guilt trip tends to make one less motivated to exercise.

Solution: MOTS can be a lifesaver. Short for "marching on the spot" you can do it while watching T.V., doing chores or talking on the telephone. Bathroom breaks are perfect for MOTS. Everybody needs to go, so why not march a few minutes while you are there? MOTS are also perfect for anyone who desires to ramp up the intensity a little bit.

2. No Instant Gratification

Who doesn't want quick results? The notion of walking weeks before seeing any can be discouraging. Here's the thing. Slow sticks. Any habit that has developed slowly will survive, even in the face of obstacles. Short cuts mostly lead back to square one.

Solution: Gratification can still be a powerful tool. Allow yourself small but satisfying rewards. Completed your first week? Buy some stationery if you like writing or have a bullet journal. Like plants? Reward yourself with a new pot plant or something for the garden.

3. It's Lonely

If you are social or need constant mental stimulation, a quiet walk can be lonely. Sometimes you don't feel like distracting yourself with music, the scenery fails to engage you and forget about bringing the dog because he stops to smell every wrapper on the sidewalk.

Solution: Find a walking partner or group. If there are none in your area, there is unfortunately no magic fix. But take heart. With time, discipline grows and with it, the need for distraction and stimulation will diminish.

4. The Weather Sucks

Solution: Make this your rest day or get on a treadmill or do some MOTS.

5. You Feel Self-Conscious

It's natural to feel self-conscious when starting a new exercise program, especially where others can see you. Maybe you fear hurtful remarks from fit and lean people. Maybe you don't want to be the huffing person in the neighbourhood walking club.

For most of us, this stems from social expectation warped by the media. We are bombarded by ads showing photoshopped models or Olympic athletes who look happy because they are physically desirable. That gold medalist may be the real deal with her sculpted body but what you see represents years of behind-the-scenes training. Most ad campaigns are designed to make people feel bad about themselves and also to forget about what really goes into getting results - dedication and hard work, not the pill or potion they are selling.

Solution: Recognize the haters and media for what they are. They are not the ultimate authority on your journey or your body. There is nothing wrong with you. There will always be an insensitive comment or an image capable of setting you back. It's normal to feel deflated and discouraged, so wallow and get it out of your system. Then get up and continue with your own journey. If you can, avoid people who do not support you.


Helpful Prompts

Discipline, not inspiration, is what makes you show up for a walk. Discipline takes time to develop, so don't worry if you have none at the moment. The trick is to learn your triggers. What makes you excited to walk?

Try the suggestions below and keep the ones that work for you. Also, create your own list of prompts and read it whenever you need a shove.

  • Feel proud of your progress. Read your log to see where you started and where you are now.
  • Read success stories online. Somewhere, there was somebody worse than you. They worked hard and succeeded. Even better, they shared their sometimes-brutal journey to inspire others. Such powerful stories prove that goals are achievable.
  • Appreciate how the rewards you've earned changed your environment and allowed for small joys. Remind yourself that more stuff will come your way if you put on those walking shoes!
  • Place a prompt somewhere in your daily routine. This could be your walking shoes, a note, your snack, anything telling you it's time to wiggle those toes. Place the note in your lunch box or the shoes on your bed where you can't miss them. You can even use a reminder of the reward you are currently working towards.

Additional Safety Tips

If you ease into an exercise program and manage your sugar levels and hydration, there shouldn't be any issues. However, work gently with injuries and listen to your body. Some days it will be energetic and flat the next. There is no shame in stopping a session when you feel too tired or old injuries get crabby.

The same with the flu. Allow enough time to recover fully, even if it takes around two weeks. Rather, stay safe and make sure the bug is out of your system than cause more damage. Exercising with the flu can be a very dangerous thing to do.

Finally, always be conscious about who and what is around you. Do not walk in areas that are dark, lonely or where somebody can attack you. Never assume it won't happen. Stay safe.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Jana Louise Smit