The Basics: Walking for Fitness and Fun

Get happy -- and healthy -- with the world's easiest exercise

By Barbara Russi Sarnataro
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Michael W. Smith, MD

Arkansan Jim Wilson had 300 pounds on his 5-foot-7-inch frame when he decided he wanted to walk a half marathon. He knew it would be a long journey: he couldn't walk a mile without getting winded.

Still, his goal spurred him on. He started training in March 2001, and in September of that year he walked a scenic 13-mile loop in Red Rock Canyon, outside Las Vegas.

Along the way, he started feeling stronger and sleeping better. His self-esteem shot up, and he ate more healthfully. By the time he walked his five-hour half-marathon, he was down 50 pounds.

"The whole process [gave me] a major feeling of accomplishment," says Wilson, a 53-year-old financial adviser.

You don't have to walk 13 miles to reap the benefits of walking. In fact, it's one of the best ways for a sedentary person to start an exercise program, says California health educator, fitness expert, and author Shirley Archer.

"There's very low risk of injury with walking," she says. "It's comfortable, easy, and low-cost. All you need is a good pair of shoes."

Besides that, she says, it can actually be enjoyable, which is half the battle when it comes to sticking to a fitness regime.