Running and walking are among the best fitness programmes and they're fun, simple and inexpensive.

Running and walking are among the best fitness programmes and they're fun, simple and inexpensive.

Done correctly it is the perfect exercise for today's hustle and bustle lifestyle.

Running or walking helps prevent osteoporosis - a bone disease that leads to an increased risk of fracture owing to a reduction of bone density and the disruption of bones' micro-architecture.

Running or walking is convenient. You can do it anywhere and any time. There are no skills to learn and it is also relatively cheap.

All you need is a good pair of walking or running shoes and the road. But unfortunately running or walking injuries often take people off the road when they are just getting started.

Here are some tips on how to get going safely and stay injury free:

lIf you have a history of heart disease, diabetes or other chronic illness, consult your doctor before you begin.

lBeware of the "terrible toos": Too much, too fast, too hard, too soon. These are the number-one cause of running injuries.

Muscles, joints, ligaments and connective tissues need to be conditioned to react properly to the forces involved in running or walking.

lTo avoid injuries, including muscle and back strains, start slow, go slow and see what your body is able to tolerate.

lThe surface you run or walk on, your shoes, muscle weaknesses, inflexibility and leg or spinal alignment problems that might be undiagnosed can also be associated with injuries.

lWhen you run each foot strike generates an amount of force that is equal to about three to six times your body weight. When you walk, it generates up to two times your body weight, so you need shoes that will keep your feet stable and help to absorb the force.

There are athletic shoes specifically designed for over-pronators - people whose feet roll in too much and over-supinators - people whose feet roll out too much.

lAlways warm up by starting slowly and walking or jogging lightly for about five minutes.

Walk or run on the softest, most even surface you can find. Always stretch your legs and pelvis well after your exercises, while your muscles are still warm.

lExpect mild stiffness and soreness one to two days afterwards. You should be relatively pain free before you start again.

If your knees are so sore that it's hard to walk downstairs, see a chiropractor, physiotherapist or other healthcare professional.

So get out there and start putting one foot in front of the other. Start slowly to avoid injury, but if an injury happens to find you, take care of it right away, so you can get back on the road as soon as possible. - Family Health Options