If you are just beginning a new weight loss program, it may be a little intimidating to join a gym. Perhaps you’re looking for a home weight loss workout that won’t cost you anything to join, doesn’t have monthly fees, doesn’t involve electronic equipment, allows you to workout on your own schedule and is really as easy as putting on foot in front of the other.

If this sounds good, you’ll be thrilled to learn that it is possible to walk off weight even without changing your daily diet. In addition to weight loss, you can expect to gain health benefits from walking as well. Walking can help lower blood pressure, and reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer.

If you’re convinced that walking is the best exercise plan for you, here are a few good walking tips to get you started on the “road” to weight loss, better health and a life-long weight control workout.

1. Commit to walking on a consistent basis.
To lose weight, you really need to walk at least 10,000 steps per day, which translates to about 4.5 miles, or the equivalent of 60-minutes of brisk walking. That may sound like a lot of steps, but get ready for the good news: you can get the same benefits from breaking up your walk into several short workouts. So if one hour is too much, try a 30-minute walk before breakfast and another 30-minute walk after dinner.

2. Know your numbers.
A brisk 60-minute walk burns about 300-400 calories, depending upon your current weight. So walking one hour each day, over the course of 10 days, can burn off one pound per week. Again, think consistency. Losing one pound per week adds up to a huge amount of weight over the course of a year. Wouldn’t you like to be 35 pounds lighter this time next year, while enjoying the great outdoors along the way?

3. Have a backup plan.
There will be days when the weather simply doesn’t cooperate. Do not fall into the habit of using this as an excuse. Invest in a simple foldup treadmill and stash it under your bed for rainy day use. And then use it.

4. Vary the intensity.
You can boost your metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body burns calories while resting, if you vary your heart rate during your workouts. A 60-minutes power walk should include:

* 5-minute warm-up (just walk normally, at a pace where you could easily carry on a conversation.)

* 15-minutes (speed up until you are walking briskly; you can still talk but would prefer not to)

* 20-minutes (walk very briskly, on the verge of jogging. Swing your arms if you can.)

* 15-minutes (slow back down to a brisk walk)

* 5-minute cool down (slow down to your normal walking pace)

5. Buy good walking shoes.
Sorry to disappoint, but sandals won’t work for this workout. You need a decent pair of walking shoes with a flexible sole and more bend in the toes than running shoes. This allows your foot to hit the ground heel-first and then roll through the ball of your foot to your toes. You also want your walking shoes to be lightweight and breathable. Most importantly, walk around the shoe store several times to try out the shoes before your buy them.

6. Reduce the risk of injuries.
Granted, walkers are not nearly as injury-prone as other forms of exercise such as running, but if you aren’t careful, you’ll lose precious workout days due to blisters and muscle pain.

Replace your walking shoes every 3-months. They probably won’t look worn, but 60-minutes of walking for 90 days will wear down the tread and change your natural walking gait. Not convinced? Put your 90-day old walking shoes on a level surface, like a table-top, and look at them straight on from the back. See where the sides of the soles are wearing away? That will cause muscle strain and soreness.

Wear light or bright colored clothing while walking. It’s your job to help motorists see you.

Don’t walk in unpopulated areas, especially after dark. As tempting as it is to find an out-of-the-way nature trail for your daily walk, it can also be extremely dangerous. Make sure you’re walking where you can be easily seen. It never hurts to carry protection spray.

7. Stay motivated.
Bring your iPod and add new music frequently. Or listen to a book on tape, but don’t become so engrossed that you slow your pace. Change your route frequently, to mix up the workout and to increase your safety. Have a friend join you, but don’t let the conversation get in the way of your brisk pace.

Stick with it. Your legs may be a little sore at first, especially if you haven’t done much physical exercise in a while. But that should only last a couple of days. After a couple of months of daily walking workouts, you should see significant results: your pants will fit better, a trip up the stairs won’t leave your breathless, and your doctor will congratulate your on better overall health.

One last piece of advice: ignore your scales for a couple of months. You may not see immediate weight loss from your walking workouts. This is because you’re building your lower body muscles while burning fat and muscle weighs more than fat. But don’t get discouraged, this new muscle requires more calories to sustain it than fat, so you have increased your resting metabolism which will help you lose weight over time. Just keep walking … you will be so glad you did!