The widespread benefits of gentle aerobic exercise are well known – improved heart health, improved sleep quality, improved mood, the list goes on. The current recommendations are for 30 minutes, 5 times a week (and 2 days of strength or resistance training). So what do you do if you aren’t able to make it that far? Many people would do a 30 minute walk without a second thought, but if you are recovering from an injury, illness or period of de-conditioning for any number of reasons you may very well need a structured return to walking plan.
Steps for return to walking
- Understand that everyone is different and respecting where your body is at. Every body is different and has been through its own unique journey and challenges and some have been through a lot more than others. So respecting wherever your body is at right now and working within your limitations (rather than doing what you ‘think’ you should be doing) is essential.
- Mindset: it is easy to feel like going for a 5-10 minute walk is not achieving anything or even worth doing, especially if you’ve previously had a higher level of activity. However, if that is your current level of capacity, that’s exactly here you want to start. The only way to progress from there is to make a start. Shifting your mindset to see the importance of consistency and knowing that what you are doing is valuable and working toward progress is key. This might include getting dressed in your ‘workout’ clothes or putting on your joggers. Small behaviours that help reinforce that we are about to exercise .
- Establish your comfortable baseline: You want to work out how far you can comfortably walk without getting flared up (ie no increase in pain/symptoms, no big drop in energy). This is how you can gradually build your tolerance rather than the “boom/bust” cycle of walking too far, getting flared up and having to take a week off before you can try again.
- Make a plan – once you establish your baseline, you can use the below table to help you work out which level is suitable. Eg if you can walk for 5 minutes, but 10 minutes is too far – choose level 2. If you can comfortably do 15 minutes, choose level 6.
Plan for return to walking
|WALK 1||WALK 2|
Summary of Return to Walking
The goal is to build up your walking pace so that you get the cardiorespiratory benefits without irritating anything. Adding the second walk in often speeds up progress, however if you don’t have time or ability to do that, then that is ok. You only want to change one thing at a time (eg pace or time). This means you may stay on a level for a while and work on getting your pace quicker or you can work through the levels and then work on your pace. It’s totally up to you, and your body.
If you have specific questions about goals for return to walking program, talk to your health professional. Here at Barefoot Physiotherapy, we would love to help you with your goals. Book in to see one of the team today.