Another way to monitor your exercise intensity that doesn’t require taking your pulse is to use the Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale. On this scale, 0 means no movement at all, and 10 means a maximal, all-out effort. The numbers in between represent light, fair, somewhat hard, vigorous, hard, and very hard exercise. The exerciser rates how hard he feels he is working based on his shortness of breath, leg tiredness, and overall tiredness. The 40% to 70% training intensity suggested for walkathon training is roughly equivalent to working at a light to vigorous perceived training intensity.
After you start your exercise program, your resting heart rate may slow down as your heart becomes stronger. For this reason, it’s a good idea to reassess your resting heart rate every two to three weeks and adjust your training intensities accordingly, since they are based on your resting heart rate. You will probably see the largest decrease in resting heart rate in the first few weeks of training. While your resting heart rate and target training intensities may change, your maximal heart rate will not change much with training.
In general terms, to improve your fitness level through aerobic exercise, you need to train three to five days per week for 20 to 60 minutes, in the 40% to 70% training intensity range. If you have not been doing any aerobic activities up until this point, walking 20 consecutive minutes may be a challenge for you. In this case, the 12-week training program for a 5K walkathon will allow you to gradually condition your body to walk for an extended period of time. Before you start, however, get your doctor’s OK. While brisk walking is safe for most people with diabetes, it’s nonetheless important to make sure you have no conditions that could be worsened by an exercise program.
If you have been exercising and you regularly accomplish the training program outlined for a given week (for example, you already do the workout described for week 4 on a regular basis), you may start your program with the following week’s schedule.
A few more considerations before you proceed to the walking program: To improve your walking stride and technique, always walk slowly for a couple of minutes to warm up and do some gentle stretches of all major muscle groups prior to each exercise session. (See “Stretches For Walkers” for more information.) Avoid taking steps that are too large. To increase your walking speed, take smaller, faster steps. If you are going to walk above a light level of exertion, warm up gradually, increasing your walking intensity to the target level over three to five minutes. Similarly, at the end of the exercise bout, gradually cool down by decreasing your walking intensity to the light level.
Using a pedometer
A pedometer is an excellent tool to monitor your training walks as well as your daily physical activity and help keep you motivated. Pedometers are small mechanical devices that are used to count footsteps. Wearing one throughout the day gives you a fairly accurate tally of the total number of steps you take each day. In this way you know whether you’re meeting your goals, surpassing them, or need to do more.
The more accurate your pedometer, the more satisfying it is to use. Some low-cost pedometers available at retail stores are relatively inaccurate, but you can obtain a good pedometer for about $25. (Ratings are available online and can be located by typing “pedometer ratings” into a search engine.) To verify a pedometer’s accuracy, take 50 steps while wearing it; if the pedometer count is within 10% of 50 (45 to 55), the device is considered acceptable. Keep in mind that all pedometers are less accurate at very slow walking speeds (slower than 30 minutes per mile), which don’t create enough lower-body movement for the pedometer to accurately register the steps taken.