If busy days, bad weather or achy joints interfere with your walking plan now and then, it’s no cause for concern. But if you constantly have excuses – or legitimate reasons – to skip your daily walk, you risk abandoning your exercise goals altogether, says Steve Gnatz, MD, medical director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Loyola University Health System, in Maywood, Ill.
The solution? Anticipate barriers to exercise and create strategies for dealing with them when they arise. Here are some examples that can keep you walking for better health.
Barrier: Joint pain.
Solution: Take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or use a hot pack or pain-relieving cream before you exercise to soothe joints and prepare them for walking. If the pain is accompanied by swelling, redness and/or heat, take it easy and do some gentle range-of-motion exercises instead.
Barrier: Concerns for personal safety.
Solution: Whether your concern is traffic, uneven sidewalks or muggers, find a safe place to walk. Drive to another neighborhood, find an indoor location or walk when there’s less traffic or more people so you feel more secure.
Barrier: Bad weather.
Solution: Dodge summer rains or winter chill by taking your walk inside. Think malls, gyms with an indoor track or even a heated pool where you can walk in water (and benefit from its warmth and buoyancy).
Solution: Do one-half of your usual walk. If you’re still fatigued, give yourself a break. Once you get started, though, you might feel like finishing. Though it seems counterintuitive; exercise relieves fatigue.
Barrier: Lack of time.
Solution: If commitments make a 30-minute walk impossible some days, break it up. When you walk down the driveway for your paper, deliver the neighbor’s to his doorstep; take the stairs at work; walk around the supermarket before checking out. Those extra steps add up.
Solution: Look for a buddy or two. “It’s easier to exercise when others are counting on you,” says Dr. Gnatz. (Walking with a group also helps if safety is a concern.) Or find a new place to walk – try a friend’s neighborhood, a park or a street where you can browse shop windows.