Walk into Spring

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

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"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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