Track 'smart walk' goals
WALKING is one of the easiest and most effective exercises you can do.
It's good for reducing your risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, lifestyle-related cancers and osteoporosis as well as alleviating stress and, it's free.
But what about if you want to get good at it, or do more of it? You need some kind of chart, or schedule, to monitor your progress.
Enter the pedometer, or mobile phone application, says Helen Vause, author of Walking for Fitness, Pleasure and Health.
"Depending on your budget and your comfort level with technology, you can make great use of the simple functions of a pedometer or try the new and exciting mobile phone applications for walking support.
"Whether it is counting steps or recording a great range of data and sharing it across social networks, there is a tool that will enhance your walking," she says.
Other things that will help you walk more often or for longer include comfortable fitness gear including shoes (they don't have to be expensive - try KMart), a hat, an iPod, a dog (yours or borrowed), a sense of adventure and a commitment to succeed.
"As Woody Allen said, 80% of success is just showing up."
Buy a good, basic pedometer from a sports store or online, read the instruction and clip it securely to the side of your waistband above your hip.
Before you set yourself a target of daily steps, it is wise to use it for about a week to record how many steps you average each day.
"Chances are it will be somewhere between 1000 and 3000 if you have a fairly sedentary life and work at a desk job - not as many steps as you may have thought and nowhere near enough to make a difference," says Vause.
"The experts say if you fit in from 7000 to 10,000 steps a day into your life, it should be enough to reduce your risk of disease and keep you on the path to a long and healthy life.
"If you want to lose a significant amount of weight, it is estimated you will need to get up over 12,000 steps a day to achieve that."
For success using a pedometer, Vause suggests keeping a log of your progress, setting realistic goals and building on them.
Mobile phone apps enable you to use the GPS function in your phone to track and record fitness activity.
"You can record times, distance, speed, pace, kilojoules burned and the route you have travelled.
"You can save all this information and upload it to websites and share it with others.
"You can map your routes and create graphs and calendars.
"If you like, you can add in a sort of virtual walking buddy by configuring regular announcements through your earphones, give you things like time, distance and performance."
Just Start Walking Australia app allows you to track your walks via GPS, log your walking history, share walks with friends online and find walking events in your area.
Other apps include iMapMyWALK, WalkMeter, Pedometer GPS+ or Pedometer Pro.
Get nice gear to walk in and you'll feel better about how you look, says Vause.
And, remember, you're out doing something positive about your health, so be loud and proud.
Walk with friends, or an iPod, vary the route, or set off for a destination, such as the mall or a friend's house.
I don't have a walk buddy
Join a walking group, take a dog, or listen to music.
I don't have time
Get up earlier or find a night walking buddy. Walk at lunchtime or walk to work.
It's too hot to walk
Beat intense heat by getting out early in the morning.