WALKING, AS WELL AS other forms of physical activity, can relieve stress, anxiety and depression, and elevate mood. It can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and several forms of cancer.

    “Walking is one of the best ways to improve your health and quality of life,” said Bill Reger-Nash, EdD, of the WVU Department of Community Medicine. “Our bodies were designed to move. When we sit too much, we tend to become tired, stressed and overweight.

    “Walking at a moderate intensity is safe for most people,” he continued. “It burns calories and fat, while shaping muscles and boosting the metabolism.”

    Looking for a walking program to get you started? Consider the “Walk 100 Miles in a 100 Days” initiative, which kicks off on March 19.

    “The goal is attainable, and achieving it can make a difference in your overall health,” said Dave Harshbarger, wellness manager for WVU Healthcare. “Last year, we had more than 6,000 participants; 97 percent met the goal. We hope even more people will sign up this year.”

    To register, call 304-293-2520 or visit hsc.wvu.edu/ wellness. This year’s theme is “The Places You Can Be.” Anya Leach, a WVU student, came up with this year’s theme and T-shirt design.

    Whether you’re making a first attempt at exercise or returning after some time off, it’s important to remember that a good start can lead to positive results. Dr. Reger-Nash and Harshbarger offer these tips:

    Get your doctor’s approval, especially if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or other risk factors.

    Start slow — walk at a comfortable pace for 10 minutes.

    Build up to 30 minutes.

    Walk on most days of the week.

    Walk with a friend.

    Wear walking shoes with good arch support, a firm heel counter and some type of shockabsorbing material.

    Wear layered clothing so that you can remove layers as you warm up.

    Drink 4-8 ounces of water for every 20 minutes of walking.

    Cool down with five minutes of stretching.

    The effect that exercise can have on your health is almost immediate. You’ll look great, feel great and improve your overall health. Get started today!

STEPHANIE BOCK is the director of community relations for WVU Healthcare. This is one in a series of weekly columns provided by Mon Health System and WVU Healthcare.