Start Walking Today!

by Shaun Wiley

At the onset of every new year, many of us make the same empty promise to ourselves:

“This is the year I’m going to get in shape.”

Given the vast number of us who never fulfill this promise, it is clear that many of us find it difficult to get and stay motivated.

This was one the reasons that the American Heart Association launched Start!, a movement to help Americans improve their health by walking. This national movement encourages everyone to walk and engage in other healthy habits as part of their daily routine to live longer, stronger lives. In fact, studies have shown that for every one hour of regular exercise, you can increase your life expectancy by two hours.

A great way to get on track and stay there is by using My Start! Online (www.mystartonline.org), a free online tracking tool that enables you to log your daily activity and food intake and keep tabs on your overall progress.

Developed by leading exercise professionals, nutritionists and dietitians, the Start! Tracking Tool is designed to help you balance your activity with what you eat. This online program is designed to help individuals reach their goals and control their health, fitness, nutrition and more.

After you register for My Start! Online, log-in daily to record your physical activity for that day—whether walking, running, swimming, etc. You can even plan your walking routes using a personalized map. Enter your food intake, print a summary of your daily calories and receive weekly e-mail summaries of your activity and dietary consumption for that week.

Using My Start! Online is a great way to stay motivated on your journey to better health; progress tracking provides a wonderful incentive to keep you striving toward your goals. The reminder e-mails will jump start your routine if you hit a slump.

Finally, My Start! Online acts as a reality check; for example, if you aren’t reaching your goals fast enough, the tracking tool provides a record of your activities to help you identify where you may need to make some changes to get back on track.

Before you begin any physical activity, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a medical evaluation, especially if you’ve been sedentary for a long time, are overweight or have a high risk of coronary heart disease or other chronic health problem.

Once you get the green light to begin, make sure to drink plenty of water and always warm up and stretch properly to avoid injury.

For more information, visit www.americanheart.org/startchicago. Shaun Wiley is the communications director for the American Heart Association Midwest Affiliate.

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