Fast Fitness Quiz: What Works Best to Get You Moving?

Convincing you to walk more, even if you are already a regular walker, takes more than just compelling facts; it takes your heartfelt motivation. Here are a few questions that will get inside your head and help you figure out what's stopping you—and more importantly, what will get you going.

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1. How often do you walk for pleasure?

1. How often do you walk for pleasure?
a. each and every time I walk
b. I never walk for pleasure; it's always to go somewhere or for exercise
c. whenever I schedule a walk, which is usually on weekends

What it means

What it means
If you answered a, you’re off to a good start. Research shows that if you like an activity, you’ll continue; if you don’t, you won’t. To up the pleasure factor, try walking with someone you love. Or choose a beautiful path for your walk. Or do something you enjoy while walking, like bird watching, singing, or brainstorming ideas for that new project. But stay off the phone; walking is your time, not work time. If you limit pleasure walks to an occasional stroll, strive to fit more short jaunts in between; consider them practice for your next really big hike.

2. Which best describes how you feel after 30 minutes of walking?

2. Which best describes how you feel after 30 minutes of walking?
a. enough; can I stop now?
b. like I could walk all day
c. a little tired, but refreshed

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What it means

What it means
Answering either b or c is a sign that you’re on the right walking track. For b responders, just be sure you’re walking briskly enough to get your heart pumping, and not simply strolling and daydreaming. Similarly, those answering c should be sure to sneak in a few longer walks at more leisurely paces to build up stamina.

If you answered a, try making your walks more pleasant. If you find yourself physically flagging after 30 minutes, try walking more consistently, at least three days a week. Be sure to begin each walk at a slow, steady warm-up pace rather than charging into it. Going full throttle from the get-go not only increases your risk of injury, it also increases the odds that you’ll wear out before you’ve gone very far. Finally, end each walk with a pleasant cool down.

3. When it comes to walking company, you...

3. When it comes to walking company, you...
a. prefer to walk with one, maybe two friends.
b. love a parade; the more, the merrier.
c. enjoy the solitude of a lone walk.

What it means

What it means
There are no “good” or “bad” answers here. But whatever your preference, be sure to set yourself up for long-term success. If you feed off the energy of a big group, join a walking club. You can find them by simply searching nearby walking clubs via Google. Or search through an official club site like American Volkssport Association. Finding one or two walking buddies can be as easy as asking around the office, or even posting a note on Facebook. If you prefer to go it alone, you can keep it interesting by using sites like mapmywalk.com or mapmyrun.com to find favorite routes of other active people in your area.

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4. How many days a week do you currently walk for exercise?

4. How many days a week do you currently walk for exercise?
a. 3 to 4
b. 1 to 2, usually on the weekend
c. 5 or more

What it means

What it means
For meaningful weight loss and ongoing health, most research shows you need 30, preferably 60 minutes of general activity spread through your day, most days of the week. If you answered a, that’s a great start—you are going out of your way to get exercise. To get to the next level, try keeping a workout calendar and schedule an extra day, so you log four to five days most weeks. On the other days, be sure to stay active and on your feet.

If you are truly a weekend warrior (answer b), take heart. A Harvard study of more than 8,400 men found that for those who were otherwise healthy, even just one or two long exercise bouts a week was enough to lower mortality risk. The catch: The men in that study were burning a lot of calories—1,000 in those two bouts. So while you might still reap some health rewards, try to squeeze in a few mini walking and workout sessions during the week.

5. If it's raining or cold, you...

5. If it's raining or cold, you...
a. get out the gear. There's no bad weather; only bad clothing choices.
b. sit on the couch and rack up some tube time.
c. get on the treadmill or find another indoor option.

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What it means

What it means
Unless you live in a near utopian climate where it’s never cold or rainy, the elements will occasionally threaten your exercise plans. If you answered a or c, congrats; you’ve figured out how to stick with your plan (by having a backup ready) without missing a beat. If you chose b, and inclement weather sends you searching for the remote more than once in a while, it’s time to create a rainy-day plan.

Keeping warm and dry in less-than-pleasant weather is easier than you might think. Just use this simple three-layer approach: Against your skin, wear an inner or “base” layer of wicking fabric like wool, silk, or a synthetic like Dri-Fit, that will keep you dry. Over that, wear a medium-weight, insulating layer of wool or a synthetic fabric to keep you warm. Finally, wrap it all up in an outer shell that offers wind and rain protection.

6. Your preferred place to walk would be...

6. Your preferred place to walk would be...
a. the mall.
b. a hiking trail or wooded path.
c. city sidewalks.

What it means

What it means
No “bad” answers here. So long as you have easy access to the walking areas you love most, any path you choose is the right one. For those who answered a and to some extent c, just one precaution: Your walks may come with a few potential pitfalls in the form of Cinnabon, Starbucks, or other eateries where the temptation to reward your walk is high. It might be best to leave the cash and credit cards at home.

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7. When it comes time for your walking, you...

7. When it comes time for your walking, you...
a. can't wait to get out the door.
b. need to nudge yourself out of the chair, but always feel good once you're mobile.
c. find reasons (often excuses) for not going.

What it means

What it means
It’s natural for motivation to ebb and flow even among the most dedicated walkers, even more so for those trying to make a new habit out of movement. If you need a nudge, or a big shove to get going, try paving the path with known motivators. Music is a scientifically proven exercise booster, and can literally get you moving before you’re even out of your seat. Make a playlist that kicks off with your favorite high-energy tunes. Keep your iPod charged and handy. When it’s time to go, plug in and hit play.

8. After a good walk, I like to feel...

8. After a good walk, I like to feel...
a. pleasantly tired.
b. energized. I like my walks to give me a boost for the rest of the day.
c. like I've really done something; occasionally, even a bit sore.

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What it means

What it means
The correct answer for best results is “all of the above” (sorry, trick question). The key to beating boredom, avoiding exercise plateaus, and shedding weight is adding variety to your walks. Plan three walks each week that will leave you feeling a, b, and c, respectively. For a, that would be a medium to long, steady walk. For b, a short burst walk of about 15 to 20 minutes that is done at a brisk clip. For c, hit the hills, add some intervals, do some on-the-go strength moves. Rolled together, you have a week of really great workouts.

9. My biggest obstacle to walking more is...

9. My biggest obstacle to walking more is...
a. time. I never have enough.
b. motivation. I get bored.
c. a plan. I don't know what to do.

What it means

What it means
Believe it or not, these are all interconnected. Underlying each is one single factor: enjoyment. If you really enjoyed your walks, you’d make time for them, you’d be motivated to get going; and you’d be exploring ways to make your walks better and more fun. So focus first and foremost on the pleasure part and make walking time fun time. All else will follow.

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