Spring is here and there's no better time to think about stepping up to a new regimen of exercise for older adults -- walking.

Studies have shown that walking has numerous health benefits and can reduce the risk of many diseases. An added bonus is that it requires no prescription and the risk of side effects is very low! The Saint Barnabas Home Health Care Agencies emphasize that the health benefits of walking can help older adults stay independent. Reaping these benefits can have a huge impact on quality of life.

Benefits of walking include improved cardiovascular fitness and circulation, lowered risk of stroke, weight control, improved stamina and muscle strength, and reduction in blood pressure. But the rewards don't stop there - a daily brisk walk can relieve arthritis and back pain, improve sleep and generate an overall sense of well-being that can relieve depression, anxiety and stress.

To get started, it is wise to set realistic goals and keep a steady routine to get the most out of exercising. While any amount of walking is good, for best results aim for 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Remember that physical activity does not have to be strenuous to achieve health benefits.

Starting and maintaining a walking routine may seem daunting. Here are some tips to get up and go:

Check with your doctor. If you have any chronic medical problems, be sure to consult with your physician on the level of exercise that is best for you.

Start slowly. Pace yourself according to what your body is telling you - increase your pace if you're breathing too lightly, slow it down if you feel winded.

Find a buddy. A friend can encourage you to walk on days when you aren't motivated and can help you continue walking at a good pace.

Use a pedometer. A pedometer is a great motivator and will help you keep track of your steps and measure your success. Schedule a time. Put a walk on your calendar to ensure you set aside the time.

Turn off the T.V. Trade a half hour of sedentary activity for a brisk stroll around the block.

Drink fluids. Keep hydrated, especially on hot days, to avoid heat stroke and heat exhaustion.