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Feeling a bit down? Need a boost? Put on a comfortable pair of shoes and go for a walk. A brisk 30-minute walk will lift your spirits and brighten your day.

Walking ranks as number one on the list of most popular physical activities for older adults. You can walk almost anywhere, anytime; it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s virtually injury-free. You can walk alone, with a partner, or with a group. When you step out the door you can walk the sidewalks in your area, the bike trails, nature trails, river trails, and public parks. During the winter months you can walk indoors on a treadmill, or a nearby shopping mall or at your local YMCA.

Rehab centres use walking after open heart surgery to improve our cardiovascular fitness. Walking is an aerobic exercise that gets your heart beating faster so that it transports oxygen-rich blood from your lungs to your muscles. It is at the core of rehab treatment for many ailments, not just for heart problems.

A brisk walk is just as beneficial for your health as jogging, but without the negative side effects. Studies show that done on a regular basis, walking can reduce blood pressure, increase the efficiency of your heart and lungs and burn off excess calories.

Always consult with your doctor or health care professional before beginning an exercise program.

How fast should you walk?

If you’re in good shape you can probably walk about 6 km in 60 minutes. That’s a pretty brisk pace. If you are in the 65-plus age group, your pace may have decreased to about 5 km in 60 minutes, which is still a good clip. You should know how fast you walk so that you can establish your goals. Drive your car for a distance of say, two kilometres. Later, walk that exact same location and distance and record how many minutes it takes. You can now calculate your walking speed in minutes per kilometres or minutes per mile. Alternatively, you can purchase a pedometer to measure the distance you walk.

Haven’t exercised in some time?

No problem. Start off slowly with 15 or 20 minute walks. Increase your pace and your time gradually over a period of 2 months until you are walking briskly for a total of 30 minutes or more, four days a week.

Walking is good for your health, but why not turn it into something more?

Make your walks a pleasurable experience by walking in a park, where you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the great outdoors. Make walking an enjoyable, fun experience by sharing it with your spouse, friends and family.

A few tips:

Wear good walking shoes.

Walk at least 30 minutes, 4 days a week.

Walk at a pace that gives you an aerobic exercise.

Plan your route the night before your walk.

Walk with a partner or a group. You’ll stick with it longer.

Keep a record of your outings, so you can look back at your accomplishments.

Warm up (run on the spot), then do stretching exercises before your walk.

Do stretching exercises again after your walk to avoid stiffness.

Drink plenty of water.

Walking is an excellent exercise, but it also helps you feel better about yourself, improves your attitude, increases your energy level, and helps control your weight.

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