Anne Osmer Reporting 
 
I don’t have the time. I can’t afford the gym fees. I don’t enjoy exercise. It’s too darn hard.

If you’re among the ranks of people who find organized sports too, well, organized, or get bored looking at the same walls of the gym every time you work out, or don’t have much in your budget to put toward your exercise routine – consider walking.

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Walking is versatile – you can do it virtually anywhere. Walking is inexpensive – you just need a decent pair of walking shoes and comfortable clothes. Walking is hassle free: Squeeze it in when you can. No clunky equipment to carry around. No bathing suit to change into or hair to dry afterward.

Now, I’m not knocking other forms of exercise – personally, my exercise of choice is running. And I love to swim. But walking really takes the cake for good-for-you, hassle-free, any-season exercise. Walking is fun – do it with a friend, and catch up on what’s happening. Do it alone and it can become a form of meditation.

Walking is a great option for older people who may not want to risk injury, or have other physical limitations. If recovering from an illness or surgery, walking can be a comfortable way to ease back into other forms of exercise (with your doctor’s stamp of approval, of course).

There are a number of resources to help you start walking. Health Alliance Plan has a sample walking program and other related articles on their MyHealthZONE Web pages; information for seniors and fitness in general can be found here. HAP has also compiled a Metro Detroit Mall Walking Guide for those days that are too hot or too cold for walking outside. (And you can take care of your shopping while you’re at it. See how convenient walking is?)

As with any new exercise program, talk to you doctor first before starting, and pay attention to your body! Walking should feel good, not painful or stressful.

Here are a few quick pointers for seniors before starting a walking program, from the American Podiatric Medical Association:

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• Warm up and cool down
• Choose the right footwear (this is one area you don’t want to skimp on when it comes to walking)
• Pay attention to your feet – be sure to tell your doctor if you experience pain or numbness when walking
• Walk on soft ground
• Avoid walking in cold weather – cold weather can lead to numbness, and it makes walking surfaces harder
• Use extra caution if you have diabetes – diabetes sufferers are prone to infection, and the feet is where infection often originates
• Exercise smart: Set realistic goals and don’t overdo it 

 So, lace up those sneakers and give ‘em a workout! See you out there.

Additional resources:

The Walking Site

iGoogle Walk for Good

Tons of books on walking (Amazon)!  

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