It seems everyone I meet wants to start a program of increased physical activity. Why? Maybe to improve stamina, mood, or physical capabilities. Maybe to decrease fatigue, stress, risk of disease, or complications of a pre-existing condition. Any of these goals is attainable by following a moderate program of walking!
But, how to get started? How to overcome the inertia and fatigue of a lifestyle that has excluded routine exercise for some time? Starting any new habit is tough because it requires a burst of psychic energy to overcome the powerful pull of comfortable habits.
First, lay the foundation for success by praying for God’s guidance. Improving your physical and mental wellness is indeed a Godly pursuit — it’s keeping your body, “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), in its best working order. As you proceed along the path toward wellness, pay close heed to Proverbs 3:5–6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
But still, how to get off the couch, put on suitable clothing, shoes, pedometer, and sun hat? Well, you don’t, not yet. Simplify! In my case, I was so attached to my after-work couch and sweats, I started my walking program by standing up (yes, standing up) for the duration of one TV commercial. I moved quickly to marching in place thru one, two, and three commercials — you get the picture. After about a week, I finally put on suitable clothes and walking shoes and went outdoors to walk, but to get there, I had to start so simply that I couldn’t come up with an excuse to stay inert.
Other good ideas are to buddy up with someone, announce your intentions on social networks, change one habit at a time, log daily progress, and set small goals. Do less than you think you can so you don’t get discouraged. And say goodbye to that fatiguing lifestyle!
Before starting your walking program, you’ll need to establish your baseline fitness level and then record your progress every six weeks. To do that, answer these three questions:
- How fit are you? Check and record these measurements recommended by the Mayo Clinic:1
- Your pulse before and after a brisk one mile walk (or half or quarter mile if you can’t do one mile);
- The point on your thigh, knee, or shin you can reach with your fingertips when sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you;
- The number of classic or modified pushups you can complete; and
- Your body mass index (BMI) using this Medscape calculator.2
- Do you have medical conditions that limit your ability to exercise? If you have any serious medical conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension, or heart disease) that restrict your activity, you need to check with your healthcare provider before commencing an exercise program.
- Are there any special precautions? Yes, there are. You need to minimize unfavorable environmental conditions before every exercise session:
- Walk indoors at a gym on in a mall to avoid air temperature extremes, poor air quality, or unprotected sun exposure;
- Lower your exercise intensity in higher altitudes;
- Avoid physical hazards, e.g. uneven surfaces, pooled water, ice;
- Walk in safe neighborhoods;
- Assure treadmill or other equipment repair and knowledge of its use;
- Use safety equipment, e.g., a brace or cane, to accommodate your medical limitations; and
- Be hyper alert to traffic and other dangers. Visually scan your surroundings often and don’t wear earphones while walking.3
A moderate intensity walking program is a safe, simple, and effective means of gradually increasing your physical activity and improving your fitness level. It requires only a good pair of walking shoes, easy-fit clothes, and sun protection if going outside. Oh, and one more thing: use a pedometer! By giving you instant feedback on your progress, a pedometer is proven to motivate you to meet your goals.4
How do you know the intensity of your exercise? Your perception of the intensity usually correlates with more sophisticated measurements: Is your heart rate up? Are you breathing faster (still able to converse but not sing)? Are you perspiring slightly? If so, your intensity is moderate.5 Starting at your baseline steps measured with your pedometer, increase steps weekly by a quarter to a third as tolerated. An ultimate daily goal might be 10,000 steps if you have no constraining medical problems. But remember, do less than you think you can so you don’t get discouraged.
Walking it off
A moderately intense program of gradually increased walking can, among other things, restore energy, improve mood, reduce the risk and the impact of many common physical and mental ailments, and help you lose weight.6 When you face obstacles, don’t lose hope, but be patient and pray as Romans 12:12 reminds us: “Be rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer”.
And above all, remember 1 Corinthians 6:19–20: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Do these things and you will meet your goals.
Let us pray
Father God, we ask Your blessing and direction as we incorporate the habit of increasing our daily activity. We are filled with hope that we will reap the physical benefits we seek as You steer us through the trials we’ll face. We pray this in Jesus’s name. Amen
- Ellis M.S., K. R. (2012). The way of wisdom for diabetes: Cope with stress, move more, lose weight and keep hope alive. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
(ISBN–10: 1478262303 ISBN–13: 978–1478262305)
“Move more” and other health habits necessary to live well with diabetes; incorporates inspirational wisdom from Proverbs throughout.
Fitness. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20046433 ↩︎
The referenced BMI online calculator is more precise, but if you’d prefer to do the math: ((your weight in pounds) / (your height in inches squared)) X (the conversion factor 703) = (your BMI) ↩︎
Defensive Walking 101. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2016, from http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-community/environmental-health/article/defensive-walking-101?=400 ↩︎
Counting every step you take - Harvard Health. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2016, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/counting-every-step-you-take
Pedometers, which can be either mechanical or electronic, come in many forms, from ankle or wrist bracelets to watches to cellphones. ↩︎
Exercise intensity. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-intensity/art-20046887?pg=1 ↩︎
12 Benefits of Walking. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2016, from http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/workouts/walking/wow-of-walking.php ↩︎