By Lauren Aloha and Mary Jane Williams

Now that we are all eager to start walking the city, have you decided where you are going to walk? Maybe through your neighborhood or in a park? Who are you going to walk with? What time of day? First, be safe and be smart when you walk.

Remember to:

• Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
• Don’t wear headsets or talk on your cell phone.
• Walk with a friend or group of people.
• Tell someone where you are going.
• If you are walking at night, wear light reflectors or light colored clothing.
• Use sidewalks, walking paths and crosswalks.
• Keep sidewalks clear to walk.
• Bonus: shoveling snow is a great way to burn additional calories!!

Wearing the proper clothing is also a part of being safe. It’s a good idea to layer your clothing, as that helps trap the warm air your body generates and protects you from the cold. I guarantee you will surprise yourself and end up peeling a few layers off! Hats, gloves, and warm socks are helpful to maintain your body temperature, too, and it’s also important to maintain your body’s moisture by using lip balm and moisturizer, and drinking enough water. A person should aim for a minimum of eight 8 fl oz glasses of water each day to maintain adequate hydration – and additional fluid may be necessary depending on your activity level.

Boston winters provide beautiful scenic opportunities for the community to get out and walk. Franklin Park, the Charles River Reservation, Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, or even your local city neighborhoods are all great places to try walking. It’s as easy as bundling up, putting on comfortable shoes, and stepping out your front door. If the weather is extremely poor one day, or you prefer to walk indoors, try walking at your community center, your worksite, or even at the closest shopping mall. Every step counts.

Walking can also be viewed as an opportunity to add some fun into your life. Spend time with your family by taking a walk to the local park. Let the kids play on the playground, while you use your pedometer or a smart phone app to add up your steps. Another great way to stay active is to create a walking group in your neighborhood or work environment. Walking in groups creates a support system that helps to stick to your goals. Walking new scenic routes with friends can be a great way to take some time to clear your mind or socialize with a friend. For information on creating a walking group, call the BPHC Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Division at 617-534-5690.

Challenge yourself. Search for hills to climb, try walking in fast intervals (example: speeding up for 30 – 60 seconds every 5 minutes), even increase your distance. Mapmyrun.com is a great resource for tracking and planning walking, running, or biking routes all over the country. With spring approaching, keep yourself motivated by signing up for a local charity walk or even commitment to doing your first 5k. Www.heart.org/start provides information on events in your area.

Finally, remember to continuously remind yourself of your success. If you miss a walk one day, just get back to it the next. Start off slow and keep pushing yourself to succeed. You will be amazed at what you can achieve!

Lauren Ahola is a dietetic intern at BPHC from Simmons College, and Mary Jane Williams, MS, is a BPHC Wellness Coordinator. Read their previous post about more benefits of walking here.

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