How to start a walking program you'll stick with

Staff reports

Mary Beth Eilders knew lifestyle changes were in order. The German Valley, Ill., resident didn’t exercise with any consistency, smoked up to a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years and, at one point, weighed 240 pounds.

She quit smoking nearly 10 years ago. And two years ago, Eilders, a high school business teacher, started walking to complement changes she had made in her diet.

These days, the 44-year-old mother of four feels like a different person, thanks to her daily walks. She prefers walking outdoors, but during winter months, she sticks to a treadmill in her home.

The results? Eilders has shed more than 100 pounds and recently completed her first 5K run. “I can’t tell you how good it feels,” she said.

“Women have to give themselves permission to exercise,” she said. “We sometimes feel guilty taking time away from other things, like getting kids ready for school, making lunches ... but it’s important we take time for ourselves.”

Christy Eldridge, outpatient rehabilitation manager for OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Ill., said walking is important for several reasons: It helps increase confidence, strengthens the heart and decreases the risk of disease.

“Walking is the most overlooked form of exercise,” she said. “It’s a gentle exercise, most folks can do it, and it’s available to everyone. It’s a functional activity; it’s something that helps people do what they do every day and do it better.”

Thinking about starting a walking program? Here are some tips:

- To stay fit and healthy, set a goal of walking 10,000 steps a day.

- Record your mileage, keep a journal and constantly reassess your goals.

- Buy a pedometer. It keeps you accountable.

- Change your routine: Frequently change when you walk, where you walk and who you walk with.

- If you can’t squeeze in 30 minutes at a time, break up your daily walk into three 10-minute intervals.

Rockford Woman (Rockford Register Star)