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Getting fit 'step by step'

30 NOVEMBER 2010

Many of us know we should take more exercise, and walking is the simplest and cheapest way to get started.

Walking is one of the best ways to start taking exercise: it can be done anywhere, with no specific equipment, and requires no special agility. It doesn't even cost anything – and it might save you a few bus fares! So here are three recommendations for walking your way to fitness:

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How far? If you haven't taken any exercise recently, begin gently and gradually work up to more. Maybe start off walking for just ten minutes or so. Then, when you get used to that, increase the time and distance bit by bit. Don't try and do too much too soon – and don't forget that however far you walk, you'll have to get back afterwards!

How long? Anything that gets your body moving is good, but it's important to gradually increase the length of your walks as the real health benefits are achieved after a minimum of 20 to 25 minutes. In fact, an ideal minimum is around 45 minutes, and a single longer walk is better than several shorter sessions. If you can't manage that, though, remember that any exercise is better than none at all, so do what you can.

How often? As with most exercise, constancy is important. One long hike and then nothing for another week is more likely to tire you out than achieve the benefits possible from regular exercise. Of course you may find time to walk farther at the weekend, but try and aim for three to five walks a week to build up stamina and get full benefit from the activity.

Remember: Even if you aren't very fit, walking is a simple exercise. However, if you have chronic or on-going health problems, it's always a good idea to have a word with your doctor before starting any new activity.

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