Q: One of my New Year's resolutions is to take better care of myself physically. I was thinking about starting a walking program. Does this seem like a good idea for someone who has not done much exercise recently?
A: Walking can be a very effective way to manage your weight and control stress. A few things to keep in mind are:
Stretch for five minutes before and after you walk to help avoid injury.
Wear walking or running shoes and athletic socks.
Start slowly to give your muscles a chance to warm up. Walk slower than your brisk pace for about five minutes, then speed up.
Don't try too much too soon. If you've never exercised before, gradually work up to 30 to 40 minutes per session.
Walk at a brisk pace. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to talk to a walking partner, but not sing.
Take frequent water breaks. Try to drink water about every 20 minutes. Drink plenty of water when you're finished.
Once you get started, stay motivated by making walking dates with friends.
Swing your arms opposite to your feet.
Keep your arms bent at right angles or lose. Don't over swing your arms or you may begin twisting your spine. Stand straight with a slight lean forward.
Always check with your physician before starting any exercise program.
Q: I always start a program and have trouble staying motivated. What are some good strategies to stay on course?
A: If losing pounds is as easy as journaling about what you put in your mouth, can you use the same technique to help you stick to a fitness routine?
Change your perspective: Shift your thinking from couch potato mentality to thinking like an athlete. This may sound like a big challenge, but it's not as big a leap as you think.
Schedule a regular workout time: Some of the most committed people do it every day before the sun comes up or after work. Sit down with your weekly schedule and try to build in an hour each day to do some exercise.
Think fun and variety: Listen to your inner voice when choosing the best workout for you. Consider the cost and location when making this list.
Reach out to others for support: For others, it's finding a friend with a shared zest for running, and planning scheduled workouts together. It's easy to hit the snooze button when it's just you, but much harder to leave a friend waiting at the track.
Walking can improve your mental health by reducing stress. All forms of exercise increase levels of brain chemicals that boost mood, but the repetitive movements also calm the body and reduce stress.
So start thinking of yourself as an athlete, and not a spectator. Set a goal, enlist a friend, mark it on your calendar and have some fun. You'll be setting yourself up for a lifetime of better health, more happiness and more energy for everything else in your life.
Q: Where can I walk locally?
A: The Chautauqua Mall welcomes walkers everyday at 8 a.m. in a climate-controlled environment and is free of charge.
The Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena has an indoor walking track. Their fee is a modest 50 cents per day or only $5 per month. No street shoes on the track and strollers are permitted.
On days that are clear, the Ellery Town Park has a free wonderful outdoor track and restrooms. Call a friend and go for a walk.