SPECIAL: YOUNG AT HEART
AARP Hawaii’s 10-week walking program helps adults blaze lifetime fitness trail
AARP Hawaii's 10-week walking program is designed for adults midlife and older who are interested in starting walking support groups with friends, neighbors or co-workers. New online tools can help you track your progress and get motivated to increase your number of daily steps. If you want to organize a group of friends and neighbors to hold each other accountable for regular physical activity, AARP will provide pedometers for your entire group. For more information call 545-6008.
Question: What's the hardest thing about starting a walking program?
Answer: Starting a program is easy. Sticking with it is the biggest challenge. That's why AARP is encouraging people to form walking support groups and use pedometers and online tracking tools to stay motivated ...
Q: What do you mean by "walking support group?"
A: We want people to be part of a "team," committed to helping each other achieve their goals. They don't even have to walk together. All they have to do is check in regularly with one another to keep each other on track. This could be in person, over the phone, or via the Internet! A group can be as few as two people and as many as you like.
Q: How does the pedometer help increase physical activity?
A: Most people take between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day. We've found that clipping a pedometer to your waist band in the morning and recording the number of steps you take throughout the day can motivate you to go beyond the average. You become much more aware of the walking you do and that pushes you to do even more by doing things like parking the car further away or taking the stairs.
Q: How high should people set their fitness goals?
A: That depends upon your fitness level when you begin. For people who have been sitting on the couch a while, a 10 percent increase in the number of steps per week is a good guideline. For those who are closer to the national average, AARP's walking program is designed to help you build up to a goal of 10,000 steps a day over a 10-week period. And one of the great features of this program is that you can record your progress online. The online program features four famous virtual trails of various lengths, so everyone can participate regardless of activity level.
Q: Tell me more about the virtual trails.
A: You can go online to register for the Step Up to Better Health program at aarp.stepuptobetterhealth.com. The program allows you to chart your walking progress "virtually" along a famous American trail. It also allows you and friends living somewhere else to walk the trails together.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Say you live in Mililani and have a friend in San Francisco who also wears a pedometer during the day. At night you can chart each other's progress virtually along the Appalachian Trail by simply inputting the number of real steps that you took during the day. In addition to being a lot of fun, it makes you more accountable for keeping up your walking regimen.
Q: Do you have to have Internet access to join an AARP walking program?
A: No ... each pedometer comes with a paper tracking tool as well.
Q: How does walking compare to other forms of exercise?
A: We have more opportunities to walk in our daily lives and it makes sense to take advantage of that. The trick is to lower your dependence on modern conveniences that engineer walking out of our lives -- such as escalators, riding lawnmowers, and most important, automobiles. Walking is the most popular physical activity in America because it's easy to do, gentle on the body and good for people of all ages and almost any fitness level.
Jackie Boland is the associate state director for community outreach at AARP Hawaii.