Experts agree that regular exercise in short bursts or 30-minute sessions does a body good—relieving stress, strengthening the heart and immune system, and promoting healthy weight. Research shows that people who exercise outdoors stick with it longer and at a faster pace than indoor fitness buffs—probably because they are less likely to get bored or distracted by minor discomforts.
“Exercising outdoors frees the mind,” says Tyler Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., CEO of Cooper Aerobics Enterprises, Inc., and co-author of Start Strong, Finish Strong with his father, Dr. Kenneth Cooper. “Just get outside and start moving. Being active most days of the week in some form or fashion will really pay dividends in the long run.”
3 Steps to Shoes That Fit
Bad shoes can sideline the best walking program, warns health fitness specialist Kristen Davis.
“Impact forces from the ground travel up your legs,” she explains. “Proper shoes protect your feet and keep your knees and hips from hurting, too.”
Here is Davis’ game plan to find shoes that make you want to walk—and that’s the point, right?
Insist on Comfort
Try on different brands and styles and walk around in both shoes. Trained staff at a running store can test your gait and get you in the best shoe.
Check out the store’s return policy in case shoes no longer feel comfortable after walking two or three miles.
Set a Budget
Expect to spend $50 to $100 for walking shoes and to get a new pair every six months. “New Balance and Brooks have great walking shoes,” advises Davis.
Pick the Right Program
Outdoor fun should match your personality and fitness level. Consider these categories, then choose your favorites (after consulting your doctor, of course).
The Nature Lover: Plant a garden or flower bed. Spend extra time raking and weeding on especially nice days or offer to do yard work for others. Bike or hike on local nature trails, or plan a trip to state or federal parks.
The People Person: Set up a badminton net and arrange neighborhood games. Take a morning jog, lunchtime stroll, or evening walk with friends. Join a water exercise class or swim club at the local pool.
The Competitor: Train for a sprint triathlon (half-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride, and a 3.1-mile run); join a bocce or softball league; or devise a workout of lunges, push-ups, and squats utilizing outdoor railings and steps.
Start Small, Finish Stronger
Setting realistic goals and finding a fitness partner can help you stay motivated.
“The ideal goal is 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, but even three times a week adds years to a person’s life,” says Dr. Cooper. “Success breeds success, and any amount of exercise is better than none at all.”
$7 to $20:
KINeSYS sunscreen sprays for active kids and adults are alcohol-free, offer UVA/UVB protection, and resist sweat and water.
Walking shoes from Adidas and New Balance are durable, economical, and widely available at discount and sporting goods stores.