Physical therapists can evaluate your current fitness level and functional limitations, taking into consideration your medical history, and prescribe a routine that meets your individual needs. They can instruct you on appropriate exercise precautions, proper exercise techniques, and injury prevention methods for all levels of exercise.

If your goal is to start a running or walking program, there are several items to consider before you begin. Take into account your current activity level:

  • Do you have a current medical condition that would warrant a visit to your medical provider for clearance to begin a regular exercise program, or are you recovering from an injury?
  • Do you have running or walking experience?
  • What kind of terrain will you be training on (indoors, outdoors)?
  • Do you know your shoe wear?
  • Do you know the time duration and/or frequency you have to devote toward achieving your health and wellness goal?

Here are some beginning and more advanced training ideas for walking and running to get you started.

Walking Training

Short/Easy Workout — ¾ mile

  • 3 – 5 min warm up
  • 19 – 23 min walk (25 – 30 min/mile or 2 mph speed)
  • 55 – 65% max Heart Rate or 1 – 2 RPE*
  • 3 – 5 min cool down

Long/Hard Workout — 3 miles

  • 3 – 5 min warm up
  • 45 min walking (15 min miles)
  • 75 – 80% max Heart Rate or 5 RPE*
  • 3 – 5 min cool down

*RPE- relative perceived exertion (a self-assessment of how hard it is to talk while exercising without being breathless)

Running Training

Beginner — 1 mile

  • walk 1/4 mile
  • jog 1/2 mile
  • finish with 1/4 mile walk

Alternate days active “rest”
More advanced — 5 miles
Start with warm up 3 – 5 minutes/end with cool down 3 – 5 minutes
Run 5 days per week with active rest days every 2 – 3 days.

Success with an exercise program involves setting reasonable goals and time frames, choosing an activity that you enjoy or have a passion for, and starting gradually.

For example, some people are naturally very social and like group exercise or team sports sessions — others prefer individual or independent activities. Maybe your goal is to address stretching and improved aerobic conditioning? Maybe you want to build muscle tone and strength more than anything else?

Use these goals to help you target what you start with in regard to activity to ensure your success. Pacing gains in your exercise program progression may mean you don’t increase exercise load or volume by more than 10 percent a week, especially if rehabilitating from an injury. Are you a morning or an evening activity person? Are you more likely to do some activity regularly for 10 minute bursts or to do it all in a one-time shot during the day? Do you only have time to exercise on your lunch break at work?

All these scenarios can be accommodated with your therapist’s help to prescribe the best program for you.

General exercise prescriptions include components of warm up/cool down, flexibility, strength, and aerobic conditioning. Recommendations include 30 minutes of light to moderate aerobic exercise 3–5 times per week, depending on your fitness level. Strength training usually means 30 minutes 1–3 times per week of focused strengthening for specific core, trunk, and arm/leg functional goals, depending on your fitness level. Stretching could be included 2–5 days a week depending on what individual needs and goals you are targeting.

For some, an exercise or activity program should also include relaxation training. Some physical therapy clinics, for example, offer therapeutic yoga sessions that can help you incorporate relaxation into your overall program. Sometimes, instruction by your therapist can achieve this relaxation goal by reviewing breathing methods and modifications.

Visit our Ask Our Experts section if you have questions about a functional limitation, injury, or medical diagnosis. The President’s Fitness challenge offers information on fitness challenges you can sign up for and general information. Visit www.presi dentschallenge.org. Fitness assessments of walking/running, Body Mass Index, and injury screenings are often offered at your local TAI Physical Therapy clinic. You can also get some information at www.apta.org/consumer about how regular exercise delays aging.

Ask your therapist for information on these tools to help you perfect your exercise routine and reach your exercise goals.

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