Well, I was gonna start a new thread this morning about starting a walking program, but much of what Fern posted covers it (you beat me to the punch, kid!)
As for pace, a consistent pace is necessary to keep the heart rate elevated to get the benefits of the cardiovascular workout.
You know what? I am gonna post it anyway ... LOL ... It's long, but good ....
STARTING A WALKING PROGRAM
Walking can help you reach any fitness goal: a healthier life, better muscle tone, easier weight control, improved aerobic fitness, and even preparation for competition. Fitness increases as the result of working the major muscles groups, increasing circulation, increasing oxygen intake and lung capacity, and burning excess calories.
To begin a walking program, start slowly. There's no overnight magic to fitness. You have a lifetime to work on good health and fitness.
Start your program by walking SLIGHTLY ABOVE a comfortable pace; forget about times, distance, and technique. Walk at a purposeful but comfortable pace. You should be able to carry on a conversation, but if you're able to sing you're walking at too slow a pace. If possible, walk for 15 to 30 minutes, but don't overdo it.
After several weeks of participating in a walking program, you may feel you are ready to meet the requirements of the overload principle of exercise training (FIT--frequency, intensity, time). If so, use the following steps:
* Set your frequency. The goal is to walk seven days a week within your THR (target heart rate), but walking three to five will improve overall fitness.
* Measure your intensity. Aim for the lower end (60 percent) of your target heart range (THR) and gradually increase to the higher end (85 percent) of THR.
* Plan your amount of time.
-> To develop long-term health, walk 30 minutes per day.
-> For weight loss or longevity, walk 45 to 60 minutes per day;
do one or two longer walks at a slower pace for greater
calorie burning, and take an occasional easy day.
-> Performance-level fitness requires a walk of 20 to 60 minutes at a fast pace, three to five days per week, with easier walks interspersed. Occasionally, try alternating fast and slow intervals.
For more information on THR, check out the Heart Disease Center at http://www.wellweb.com/heart/hthomepg.htm
Stretching is a good idea at whatever level you're walking. Walk for five to ten minutes to warm the muscles before you begin stretching exercises. Here are some suggestions:
* Achilles tendon and calf: With both hands against a wall or tree, place one foot well behind you. Keeping the back leg straight and its heel on the ground, lean in toward the wall or tree.
* Quadriceps: Place one hand on a wall or tree for balance and with the other hand reach behind your back and grasp the ankle of the opposite leg. Pull it up toward your buttocks until you feel tension along the front of your thigh.
* Hamstring: Stand on one leg; prop the other leg parallel to the
ground on a fence or table. Slide both hands toward the propped-up ankle as far as they'll go.
Do not bounce when stretching. Stretch five times, 20 seconds each, for each leg. Repeat after you've finished walking.
You do not have to walk any particular way; however, the correct
posture, arm swing, and stride help to increase the intensity and
lower risk of injury.
For correct posture, lean slightly forward from the ankles, not the waist. Walk tall and don't slouch or hunch your shoulders. Keep your head level and your chin up. Hold your elbows firmly at a 90-degree angle and swing your arms from the shoulder.
Your hand should end its forward swing at breastbone height.
On the backswing, if you are moving fast, the upper arm is almost parallel to the ground.
Also, gently contract your stomach muscles to flatten your lower
back. Make your leg stride long and smooth. Land on your heel and roll from heel to toe, pushing off forcefully with your toes.