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When in doubt, walk

Which exercise offers the greatest health benefit with the least risk?

Walking. According to fitness specialists, walking is a great exercise because it uses several large muscle groups and it raises the heart rate sufficiently to benefit the cardiovascular system.

And as a weight-bearing exercise, walking also helps prevent osteoporosis. In addition, if you begin your walk by doing five to 10 minutes of stretching, you’ll get the benefit of increased flexibility and decrease your risk of injury.

For walking to be an effective cardiovascular exercise, you must reach and maintain the proper intensity level for 30 minutes. Try this rule of thumb: Walk briskly until you feel a little short of breath but can say four or five words comfortably. That’s the right intensity level.

Sticking with it

No willpower, you say? Try these tips to make your fitness regimen succeed:

  • Be real. Set a reasonable goal for yourself. If walking for 30 minutes, three times a week is what you know you can achieve—fine. Don’t shoot for the moon only to fail.
  • Bring a “bud.” You can encourage each other on those days you don’t feel like exercising.
  • Shake it up. Walking the same route day after day will become monotonous and discouraging. Plan new routes.