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Walk into Spring

If your cozy bed won out over walking in the winter, now's the time to do something about it.

"Spring's warmer weather makes it the perfect time to get reacquainted with walking," says Mark Fenton, author of The Complete Guide to Walking. Here's his six-week walking program designed to help you get back on track.

Week 1: Walk 5 to 10 minutes most days of the week.

Observe habits: Keep a notepad and pencil in your car and write down the distances you travel during the week, such as taking kids to school, sports practices, or dance class; running to ATMs, returning rental DVDs, mailing letters at the post office; and your commute to work. Choose one activity you could do on foot.

Week 2: Walk 15 to 20 minutes most days of the week.

Move more at work: Once an hour, answer an e-mail from a colleague by getting up and walking to her office. Make it a habit to hike to a restroom on a different floor than yours. At lunch, walk around the building one time before going to the cafeteria, carry your sack lunch to a local park, or walk to a nearby sandwich shop.

Week 3: Walk 25 minutes most days of the week.

Eliminate one car trip: Walk to deposit your Friday paycheck, stroll your child to her friend's house, or explore your neighborhood on your way to mail a letter.

Week 4: Walk 30 minutes most days of the week.

Rally support: Invite a friend to meet you for a couple walks a week or ask your spouse or kids to help with after-dinner cleanup so you can get out for a post-meal walk. If you're at home during the day, offer to walk a friend's dog one day a week.

Week 5: Walk 30 minutes 4 days and 45 minutes on 2 nonconsecutive days.

Bump it up: Now that you've established 30 minutes of walking per day -- the minimum amount needed to really see good results -- working in two longer walks every week will further build your endurance and strength. Take a longer hike on a beautiful wooded trail, at the beach, or around a local lake.

Week 6: Walk 30 minutes 4 days and 60 minutes on 2 nonconsecutive days.

Pick an event: Keep motivation revved by signing up to walk a 5K. Alternatively, plan a walking vacation. Visit ava.org for walking-friendly events and ideas.

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