I am in my forties and have always hated competitive sport but enjoy walking. Is there a simple walking programme I could start?

Walking is especially good because it is cheap and generally safe and we all know how to do it. It also doesn't strain the joints as much as jogging or running. The American Heart Association walking programme (Table 10.2) is useful - but not compulsory - and you can vary the timing to your personal needs. 'Health Walks' are being developed by the Countryside Commission and the British Heart Foundation (see Appendix 2 for addresses).

You will need a yardstick to assess your progress. Try to find a distance of about one mile that you can walk; measure the distance by car or by striding out and counting the yards or metres. Alternatively, estimate the distance to the park, round the park or to the shops or station. If it's the shops, cancel the newspaper delivery and go each day to collect it.

• Gently loosen up by bending and stretching (Figure 10.1). Repeat exercises 1-5 up to six times before you start walking.

• Measure your heart rate by taking your pulse at the wrist or next to your Adam's apple. Count the number in 15 seconds and multiply by 4 or count the number in 6 seconds and add a 0. You now have the beats per minute (Figure 10.2).

Taking your pulse at your wrist (a) and neck (b).

Figure 10.2 Taking your pulse at your wrist (a) and neck (b).

• After walking for 5 minutes take your pulse again and speed up to get it above 110. If you are on a beta-blocker drug, this does not apply as these drugs slow the heart. Try to keep the pulse over 110 and note the time you took to complete your mile; take your pulse again whilst winding down. It should settle within 10 minutes.

Table 10.2 A simple walking programme

A simple walking programme

• As you get fit, your walking time should shorten and your heart rate become slower and your recovery become quicker. You can then extend up to two miles, gradually increasing your walking speed and then your distance. Do not do too much too quickly.

A friend of mine was told to judge his exercise by the talking test. What is this?

This is a simple but useful guide to how much exercise you are doing. You should be exercising in such a way that you can talk, but you should be a little breathless. If you can talk easily, you are not exercising briskly enough; if you cannot talk, you need to slow down.

I should like to go walking but I'm afraid to walk alone - I'm always reading in the local paper of women being attacked. Isn't it rather dangerous to walk on my own?

It is a sad reflection on the world that people, particularly women, should be afraid to go walking. Attacks do occur but are rare. We always need to keep a sense of proportion - only the bad things get reported. If, of 10 000 women walking in the countryside, only one was attacked, 9999 were not, but we would only hear of the one who suffered. Being afraid is understandable, but in the end it ruins your enjoyment of life. If you are worried, why not walk with two or three friends, or join a rambling club? Other precautions could include:

• carry an alarm or a mobile phone;

• do not go out when it's getting dark - pick the clear daylight hours;

• avoid remote areas and keep to open spaces (such as the paths in the park);

• choose the areas where there are lots of people (such as along a sea front or a popular park).

I've tried walking 1 mile a day and I find that I get bored after a month. What else can I do besides walking?

Joining a gym will give you access to a treadmill which will give you a better chance to judge your progress more accurately because of its computerised timing.

Other good exercises include rowing, swimming, cycling, dancing (aerobics) or simply climbing stairs. Variety is the thing!

There is a heart testing machine at my local gym, but frankly I do not understand what the figures mean. What should my maximum heart rate be?

Your maximum heart rate should be 220 minus your age. You should aim to get up to 75% of this. So, if you are aged 50, you should aim for three-quarters of 170, which is 127. When you begin your exercise programme, aim for 50% in the first 6-8 weeks and gradually build up to the 75%. Your target heart rate varies with age (see Table 10.3).

This guide applies to healthy people - those aiming to prevent heart disease. Those with heart disease should follow medical advice and limit activity based on awareness of breathing while still comfortable. Beta-blockers slow the heart rate for example, so using the pulse will not be

Table 10.3 Target heart rates

Age (years)

Target heart rate (bpm*)













* bpm: beats per minute

a good guide. Most people with heart problems can ignore the heart rate and exercise with the aim of progressively increasing performance.

I've got a tracksuit and trainers. Do I need any other special clothing to exercise in?

If you are going to build up a walking programme, you will need good shoes - don't cut corners in footwear. Walking or jogging shoes are the best, or proper walking boots if you are walking in the countryside. Wear thick socks when you try them on and look for shoes with cushion soles and an arch support. In warm weather, wear cool lightweight cotton and remember to put sunscreen skin cream on to guard against sunburn. In cooler weather, wear two or three layers (a vest, a T-shirt and a sweatshirt, for example) to retain the heat. Loose-fitting tracksuit bottoms are comfortable and inexpensive. Don't feel you have to go out in the rain - the exercise is to be enjoyed not endured.

Does regular exercise help prevent me from getting a heart attack during sex?

This is another good reason to get fit - physically fit people are sexually fit too and have far less risk of a heart problem during sex. Do you need another excuse?

What is 'exercise with a purpose'?

Some people need a reason for everything and can't see the point of just taking exercise - they get bored and lose interest. Exercise with a purpose gives them a reason, for example, walking to the newsagent for the daily paper, walking the dog, cleaning the car, getting off public transport early and walking the rest of the way to work and playing a sport such as tennis. All exercise like this is good for you. Remember alcohol in moderation is good for you, so walking as briskly as possible to and from the wine shop is exercise with a very good purpose!

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >