Congratulations on embarking on a walking fitness program. You are taking the fist step towards a healthy lifestyle. Walking is an activity that almost anyone can do. The benefits include improved energy levels, the ability to meet the demands of an active lifestyle and a general feeling of well being.

By far the benefits of walking as an exercise outweigh the risks – but just to ensure you are able to participate injury free, here are a few tips:

SET REALISTIC GOALS AND START SLOWLY. Your body is only able to perform at the level to which it is accustomed. It will take time for your body to adapt to the increased physical activity.

SET A COMFORTABLE PACE. A general rule is you should be able to carry on a conversation without any shortness of breath while you are walking.

WEAR PROPER ATTIRE. Footwear is most important; a good pair of walking shoes is a valuable investment. Reflective clothing is an excellent safety consideration. One final word on safety, personal stereo devices may impair your hearing and may put you at risk of injury.

PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE ELEMENTS. Sun-block, a hat, and sunglasses for the summer months. A walking stick or trekking pole for the winter can aid your balance and stability.

STRETCHING. Warm, flexible muscles are better able to respond to the demands of activity. Light stretches before, during, or after your walk can prevent injury and enhance your workout. See the following section for some basic stretches.

HYDRATE. Water is the best fluid replacement. Drink before, during, and after your walk.

EAT A BALANCED DIET. This gives you added energy for your walk. Consult the Canada Food Guide or speak with your physician or a registered dietician.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. If you are feeling sluggish, don’t worry about it. We all have good and bad days. A good rest day is better than a bad walk day.

TWO HEAD ARE BETTER THAN ONE. Walk with a friend (or two!). This will not only motivate you to walk but you will be helping others too.

ABOVE ALL ELSE, ENJOY YOURSELF! Walking should be an activity you treat yourself to and look forward to doing.