If you’re thinking about starting a walking regimen, our fitness tips and walking strategies will help you make the most of it. For people of any age with arthritis, walking is especially good medicine. It strengthens muscles, which helps shift pressure from joints and reduce pain. And repeated walking compresses and releases the cartilage in your knees, helping circulate synovial fluid that brings oxygen and nourishes your joints. When joints don't get this nourishment, they deteriorate faster.

But despite these benefits, it's not easy to keep walking, day in and day out. To improve your chances of success, try these five walking strategies.

1. Find a buddy.

One of the best ways to start and maintain a regular walking program is to find a friend committed to walking with you. For Shelly Bay, of Los Angeles, it’s her husband, Greg. The two walk in their neighborhood late at night. “Depending upon my health and the weather, we typically walk about three nights a week,” says Shelly, who has psoriatic arthritis.

Recruiting a walking buddy may especially help if you’re a senior. In a study published last year in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, older adults said they preferred exercising with peers to exercising by themselves. But your walking companion doesn’t have to be someone your own age – or even human, says Diane Whaley, PhD, professor of sport and exercise psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, whose favorite walking partner is her dog. “I walk my dog every day – it not only makes the walk more pleasant, but it keeps me walking when I might not otherwise.”

Walking with a friend, human or canine, is beneficial for a number of reasons, says Whaley. “It makes you feel more safe and secure. It also makes you accountable to another. You know that if you don’t go, you’re letting someone else down.”

•    Don’t have a dog? Ask to “borrow” your neighbor’s friendly pooch. Fido will be thrilled to get an extra walk every day.

•    Join a walking club. Call your local YMCA or fitness center, or search the American Volkssport Association site.

•    Call an old friend. Been meaning to catch up, but haven’t had time? Renew your acquaintance on foot.

•    Make it a date. Share some quality time with your spouse on “date walks.”

2. Do something different.

If you stride the same block every day, your routine can get old fast. To make walking more pleasurable, find ways to make it different and interesting.

A key walking fitness tip is to vary your route, a technique that works well for Bay and her husband. “One of our routes is purely residential; another is residential until we reach the local elementary school, where we loop around the school a few times,” she says. “And when a new high-rise is being built nearby, we walk to it to see how things are coming along.”