These remaining steps will help you get on the right track toward a proper attitude to walking.
Step Five: Dress the part. If possible, have a special outfit, and wear it only for walking. How you look is not the point; it's how you feel.
In changing from regular clothes into a "walking outfit," you can "psych yourself up" for the activity. In effect, you're telling yourself you mean business and really intend to collect all the rewards that are coming to you from walking. Be sure, however, that your outfit is appropriate for weather conditions.
Step Six: Think the part. What happens in your head is almost as important as what happens to your body. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, you'll begin to find reasons for not doing it.
Before you walk, try to get yourself into a positive, active frame of mind. As you walk, be aware of what's happening to your body. Feel your muscles work. Concentrate on the rhythmic flow of your movements. Walking can be a very pleasurable sensory experience.
Step Seven: Walk with others. If you're married, your spouse has to be on your side, says a study conducted by the Heart Disease and Stroke Control Program.
The study followed men who were participating in an exercise program of one hour of physical activity three times a week for eight months. The men whose wives encouraged their participation had good attendance in the program; those men whose wives were neutral or had negative feelings about the exercise had a much poorer attendance record.
The conclusion: The spouse's attitude was critical. So if you can, try encouraging your spouse or significant other to join you in your walking program or to begin one of his or her own. You'll not only be increasing your chances of sticking with your program, you'll be encouraging your partner to increase his or her fitness and health, too.
Walking with a friend can also give you the advantage of companionship and encouragement. In a study conducted at the University of Toronto, scientists reported a greater dropout rate for individual exercise programs than for group programs.
Only 47 percent of those in individual programs were still active at 28 weeks, compared with 82 percent of those in the group programs. If you think your motivation is weak -- or weakening -- walk with a partner or with several friends.
Step Eight: Walk tall. Don't worry about what other people think. As you're walking down the street, you may think that everyone is looking at you. Chances are that no one is really paying any attention. And if somebody does stare, so what? You're doing something good for your body. Besides, they may simply be admiring your ambition.
To learn more about walking, see:
Peggy Norwood Keating, MA, Contributing consultant
Rebecca Hughes, Contributing writer