Truth is, you don’t need to exercise until you’re red in the face for it to be effective. Even light to moderate physical activity offers health and fitness benefits.
The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health (January 2007) recommends 30 minutes of accumulated physical activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week. Regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancer. Most importantly, working out makes you feel good and improves your quality of life.
Walking is, by far, the most popular form of exercise today. But you need not trudge away on a treadmill until your clothes are sopping wet. A leisurely walk done for a longer duration can be just as effective and burn the same number of calories as its higher intensity cousin.
Ease into your walking program. Build your fitness base by walking at a comfortable pace for short durations, perhaps five to 10 minute sessions. Even if you think you can do more, resist the temptation: Doing too much too soon can cause undue fatigue and muscle soreness. And be sure to wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
You’re more apt to stick with exercise if you like what you’re doing, so focus first on fun. Exercise in your favorite places. Try trail walking if you like the woods. Go for a walk on the beach or around the lake if you’re a water baby. Join a mall walking club if you live in an area with harsh winters. You might even join your local health club if it’ll make you "walk the straight and narrow." But the same "easy does it" rules apply; don’t worry about how hard everyone else is working.
As your fitness level improves, you can alter the variables to add kick to the workout. But this doesn’t have to mean just increasing your pace (intensity), or exercising longer (time). If you don’t like to sweat, you can also add an extra day to your routine (frequency).