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Make Walking A Healthy Habit For Life!

In 1996, the Surgeon General recommended that people of all ages should participate in moderate daily physical activity and the national health objective Healthy People 2010 identifies physical activity as one of our nation's leading health indicators. In America today people like to think of themselves as active, robust, and rugged. But in fact, the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle have begun to threaten the decades-long progress that we have made in reducing death and suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Physical Activity and Health, the landmark Surgeon General's report of 1996, identified substantial health benefits of regular participation in physical activity, including reducing the risks of dying prematurely; dying prematurely from heart disease; and developing diabetes, high blood pressure, or colon cancer.

Walking is an aerobic exercise that will condition the heart and lungs. A moderate intensity workout of 30 minutes a day on almost every day can have both short and long term benefits to help lower your risks of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. More exciting news is that recent studies have shown that these 30 minutes can be even further reduced to include three 10-minute segments daily.

In West Virginia, 68 percent of the adult population reported little or no physical activity in 1998 and West Virginia ranked third worst among the 50 states for having no leisure-time physical exercise at all. Making walking a healthy habit for life will improve heart, brain, and other body functions at all ages. Successfully communicating this information to communities in ways that actually prompt individuals to put on their walking shoes and walk (the easiest and most popular form of physical exercise) will lead to developing walking as a healthy lifetime habit.

Implementing a successful walking program requires some thought. To ensure success:

Choose the best time for you. If you stick with a specific time you will be more likely to continue the program Morning walks often give you more energy to get through the day. If you don't have 30 minutes in the morning, three 10-minute segments will provide the same benefit. You can make up the extra time during lunch or after your evening meal.

Choose a convenient and safe walking course. An outdoor course should be a smooth surface and safe from traffic. Walking indoors at a shopping mall, school or recreation center is also a safe alternative. Wherever you walk make sure it is well lit.

Walk with a friend. For many people walking with a partner or friend makes the walk more enjoyable and help you stick to the program. Choose someone that has the same schedule as you.

Where comfortable walking shoes. Although you can wear any clothing to walk, the best materials are cotton, fleece-lined cotton, wool or breathable nylon. During the winter you should dress in layers and in summer where porous fabrics that allow sweat to evaporate. Proper footwear is important. Thick flexible soles that cushion the sole of the foot and absorb shock for the rest of the body are best.

The best warm-up for walking is walking. Start by walking slowly for about five minutes. Then moderate walking. Walk as if you are going somewhere. You should be able to carry on a conversation while you walk. If you need to start slowly, walk for only 10-minute segments the first week. Increase to 20-minutes the second week, and 30-minutes after 3 weeks.

Keep it up. Whatever you do keep walking. Once walking becomes a healthy habit for life you will look forward to walking and it will become a part of your daily routine. The same as brushing your teeth and taking a shower!

Fortunately the community structural environment in our area supports walking. The Heritage Trail runs through Wheeling and is nearly ready to connect to Brooke County. Local malls and schools also allow indoor walking. Remember walking is an ideal form of physical activity. It's easy to do, requires no special skills or equipment, can be done by the vast majority of the population with little risk of injury, and is functional: it gets you places. So make walking a healthy habit for your lifetime!

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