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Fat to Fit

Walking for Exercise: How to Get Started

Make sure you wear the right shoes, stretch properly and have a daily goal

Ready to head out and begin walking or jogging? Take these four basic steps before you start.

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1. Wear good shoes: Jogging and even walking stresses the body — which can be good for your bones and muscles, as long as that stress isn’t too jarring.

To stay active for the long term, you need the right shoes. Good shoes help absorb impact and provide support for your entire body. Because we have different feet, bodies and needs, even general advice could be misleading. So get some help from experts at shoe or sporting-goods stores.

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Stretching is one of the four basic steps to take before you start walking. — Jose Luis Pelaez/Blend/Corbis

2. Stretch your calves: After a short warm-up, stand in front of a wall or fence, with your feet about 2 feet from the base. Stand upright on one leg and extend the other leg forward so that your heel is on the ground and your toes point up against the wall or fence. Lean slightly forward to increase the stretch in the calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds. Alternate legs and repeat several times.

3. Avoid cement sidewalks: Look for safe dirt roads or paths, asphalt walkways, jogging trails and running tracks (such as those at many high schools) — or even find a treadmill indoors.

4. Set goals: Make it a game to increase your distance or speed from week to week. Map out a 3-mile route — a good daily jaunt — but start with whatever feels right.

You may also like: Exercise is the real fountain of youth. >>

Carole Carson, author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, serves as the coach for the AARP Fat to Fit online community.

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