A Beginner's Guide to Walking for Exercise

If you’re new to the South Beach Diet, you’re likely just learning all about Phase 1 and feeling pretty good now that you’ve cleaned out your cupboards and refrigerator of all sugary, starchy carbs. You’re also now eating a wide variety healthy and energizing foods instead.

Now it’s time to hit your stride in another way — by lacing up your walking shoes and heading out into the great outdoors! If you’ve been fairly sedentary up until now, or you used to walk but haven’t in a while, you’ll definitely want to check in with your doctor before you start. But once you get the green light, plan to build walking into your weekly routine. With the warmer temperatures of spring, now’s the perfect time to get out and walk. You’ll not only tone your muscles and burn more calories, but you’ll feel great, too.

Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Get the right shoes. Ideally, you should wear walking shoes, cross-training shoes, or running shoes. Avoid cotton socks and choose synthetic athletic socks that will wick away moisture while keeping your feet dry and blister-free.
  • Practice good form. Before you start walking, stand up straight. Think of yourself as tall and proud. As you walk, be conscious of your posture. Pull in your abdominal muscles, keep your chest lifted, and avoid leading with your chin, which could cause neck and back pain. Don’t lean forward or backward as you walk, since this can cause back pain.
  • Start slow and build up. If you haven’t exercised in a while, don’t embark on a 5-mile hike your first day out. Start out with just a 10-minute daily walk, during which you simply stroll at a fairly easy pace, then work your way up to 15 minutes and then 20 minutes of interval walking, in which you alternate periods of fast walking with periods of slower walking to catch your breath and recover. You can alternate interval walking with strength training on different days.
  • What to take.You’ll want to take along a water bottle so you will stay well-hydrated, particularly if you’re walking in the heat of the day. Wear sunscreen, take along sunglasses, and tie a lightweight waterproof jacket around your waist if there’s rain in the forecast.
  • Stay motivated. If you find yourself skipping your walks due to boredom, get yourself a pedometer to measure the number of miles you’re walking (it’s motivating to see your improvement). Then, invite a friend to walk with you. Also consider giving yourself a non-food reward each time you fulfill your walking goal for the week – maybe a mani-pedi, a shopping trip to buy a new walking wear, or a new set of headphones to wear with your iPod.

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