So you don't think that running is a realistic goals for you? A marathon might as well be a trip to Mars? Walking is a great start to a running program!

Many of our patients, much like their estimated 75 million obese neighbors, are stuck in a never-ending, life-threatening cycle. Obesity aggravates the pain in their feet; sore feet make it almost impossible to exercise for weight loss; and without exercise, their weight continues to increase which puts them at risk for worsening of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and other life threatening diseases.

It’s the New Year and more than 50% of New Year’s resolutions have something to do with weight loss. This includes a resolution to exercise on a regular basis. Do not let foot pain thwart your resolution to exercise! The best way to break the pain cycle is to seek help from your podiatrist. Often simply placing you in the correct shoes with arch supports or custom foot orthotics will decrease your foot pain and fast track your resolution to exercise.

Many of our patients have not exercised in years, so they have many questions on how to get started. Before starting any program, it is important to discuss exercise with your doctor to see if you have any restrictions due to heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis. Get a physical! It’s a great way to start off the year. After your physical, visit your podiatrist to discuss your foot and ankle aches and pains.

There is no perfect exercise program for anyone, but if you are more than 20 pounds overweight, I recommend you start with a walking program that also has a strength and flexibility component worked in. What does that mean? Start with walking, not running, and add stretching and a little weight training to balance your program. If you need help with program specifics, consult a personal trainer or physical therapist.

Walking really is the easiest and least expensive exercise program that can be done indoors or outdoors; and this can progress to a running program as you lose weight and get healthier.

Need more motivation? Here are six great reasons other than the obvious physical fitness improvements to start a walking program:

  1. Walking prevents type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that walking 150 minutes per week and losing just 7% of your body weight (12-15 pounds) can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%.
  2. Walking strengthens your heart. In one study, mortality rates among men who walked less than one mile per day were nearly twice that among those who walked more than two miles per day. Women in one study who walked three hours or more per week reduced their risk of a heart attack or other coronary event by 35% compared with women who did not walk.
  3. Walking is good for your brain. In a study on walking and cognitive function, researchers found that women who walked the equivalent of an easy pace at least 1.5 hours per week had significantly better cognitive function and less cognitive decline than women who walked less than 40 minutes per week. Think about that!
  4. Walking is good for your bones. Research shows that post-menopausal women who walk approximately one mile each day have higher whole-body bone density than women who walk shorter distances, and walking is also effective in slowing the rate of bone loss from the legs.
  5. Walking helps alleviate symptoms of depression. Walking for 30 minutes, three to five times per week for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of depression as measured with a standard depression questionnaire by 47%.
  6. Walking reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer. Women who performed the equivalent of one hour and 15 minutes to two and a half hours per week of brisk walking had an 18% decreased risk of breast cancer compared with inactive women. Many studies have shown that exercise can prevent colon cancer and even if an individual person develops colon cancer, the benefits of exercise appear to continue both by increasing quality of life and reducing mortality.

I don’t know if I've convinced you yet, but starting a walking program is a great way to kick start the New Year! Write down your fitness goals. Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror that asks, "Did you exercise today?" or a picture of yourself 20+ pounds lighter. Come visit Heathy Steps and get a new pair of shoes to start your program. Make this your year to keep your New Years resolution and become your ideal self! Run Happy!