Charles A. Bertrand, M.D., FACP, DIM-CD (Ret.)
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at New York Medical College
and at the Medical University of South Carolina


I like this month's (March 2005) Johns Hopkins Medical Letter entitled "Health After 50." The current issue — volume 17, number two — is about walking and is interesting and practical.

It suggests that walking helps prevent (or delays) abnormal brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. I don't know that I would go quite that far — and would rather characterize these studies as being suggestive — at least at this time. But the question is really a moot one, since walking on a regular basis has so many other benefits, such as : helping to prevent heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, management of high blood pressure, etc. There's no question but that walking on a regular basis is beneficial.

What is helpful in this article is that 10 walking tips are given — good ones, too. I'll list all of them, along with some comments of my own:

  1. Clear it with your doctor. THis is particularly true if you have a medical problem. Other individuals who are in good health may not find it necessary to see a doctor and then may start walking at a relatively slow pace for short distances... then gradually increase both.
  2. Buy good walking shoes. This is rather obvious. I would not like to see a woman walking 2 or 3 miles a day wearing stiletto-like high heels!
  3. Start and stop slowly. This makes good sense, particularly for beginners.
  4. Use good form. By this, one means chin up, shoulders slightly back and with a good stride so that the heel strikes the ground first and then the ball of the foot.
  5. Talk the talk test. One should be able to carry on a normal conversation while walking.
  6. Walk longer each week. This may or may not be a good idea — since some people prefer to walk the same distance each day, e.g., 2 miles three or four times a week.
  7. Stay motivated — pretty evident.
  8. Stick to a schedule. This is particularly helpful for many people.
  9. Walk with a partner. Another person (or walking a dog) may be helpful and also makes the experience more enjoyable.
  10. Add variety. For example, one may vary walking with other types of exercise, or take different walking routes. I had a patient who, after a heart attack recovery, walked about 45 minutes per day, 6 days a week &mdash, and he had 6 different routes — this added up to 1000 miles per year for 30 years. Medically he did fine and came to know almost all of his neighbors! Would that there were more such patients!

I should like to add some additional comments of my own.

Exercise programs are more likely to succeed when the individual has other forms of exercise that he or she enjoys. Tennis, bicycle riding, etc. are helpful and add variety. Swimming is great — but one needs access to a pool and obviously needs to know how to swim. Frequency of exercise is also important, and exercise should be at least three times a week. More is helpful, and five or six times a week is even better.

Another tip — do not exercise after a heavy meal, since the heart has to work to digest the meal, and it usually takes two or two and a half hours for the stomach to be relatively empty. So it is better not to put a double work load on the heart.

Happy exercise!


The advice provided on this website is intended to be general in nature and should not be relied upon for specific treatment. If you need personal medical attention please contact your physician.

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