I have a health and fitness question for you. What is hands down the #1 form of exercise that can:
- Improve your health
- Reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes
- Reduce your risk of high blood pressure and cancer
- Reduce your risk of arthritis and osteoporosis
- Strengthen your bones, joints and muscles
- Reduce your risk of injury
- Reduce belly and upper body fat
- Slow down the aging process
- Strengthen your core
- Relieve stress
- Is virtually free to do
- Can be done anytime
- Can be done anywhere
- Great for weight loss
- Builds community unity
- Can be done by anyone ages 2 to 112
- Can assist you in losing weight
- Build camaraderie
- Many fundraisers use this as a way to raise money
If you guessed walking, you’re 100% right!
The Basics of Walking
Walking can be taken in any form from pushing a stroller, a wheelchair, walking the dog, picking up the kids, even walking around the mall or your neighborhood! With regards to weight loss, a 150 pound person who walks just a mile can easily burn 100 calories! Although walking is the best form of exercise, please remember to consult your physician before starting this or any exercise program if you have any pre-existing injuries or health conditions, are very overweight, pregnant, are a man over 40, or a woman over 50.
Form, Clothing and Safety
Walking is a low impact, weight bearing exercise that is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. When you walk, you engage your core by walking with your shoulders parallel to your ears, keeping your abs engaged and walking straight and tall with your arms swinging gently by your side. Walking in this manner will yield you great results.
Walking Guidelines and Tips
- Always walk on the sidewalk when one is available or facing oncoming traffic, so that you’re able to see the cars or cyclists coming towards you.
- Know where you’re going and always let someone know your route.
- Carry identification (drivers license, etc.) and if possible your cell phone.
- Wear clothes that make you visible when walking, especially in the dark, when the sun is setting and at first light when visibility can be harder for drivers.
- When walking through parks, be aware of uneven surfaces as they can cause you to easily fall or twist your ankle.
- Carry a water bottle with you to stay hydrated, especially when it’s hot outside.
- Use sunblock everyday and apply it to all areas of exposed skin.
- Wear a hat or visor to protect your face from the sun.
Proper shoes are an absolute must when walking! When purchasing shoes, please make sure that they are comfortable the moment you put them on (no breaking in period should be required) and make sure they are specific walking or cross-trainer shoes and that you have the proper toe, mid-sole or arch support that your precious feet and body need. Take your time and walk around with them on to make sure that you’re going to be happy with them. Don’t make a hasty decision as this can cause pain and discomfort when you least expect it and that usually happens when you’re on a long walk.
Stretching your entire body while putting a little more emphasis on your lower body and core can help you stay strong and injury free. Walking in place indoors or before you actually start walking to warm up your muscles is a must. Warm muscles stretch better than cold ones (which can cause pain or injury). Never bounce (ballistic stretching) and hold each stretch gently for 15-30 seconds, keeping your knees soft. After you’re finished, remember to stretch again to minimize soreness and stiffness that you can experience after walking or after doing any type of physical activity.
Make or purchase a walking log and write down the days, times and distances you walked. Studies have shown that those who document their progress are more likely to stick to their fitness routine and to make positive improvements.
If you have a pedometer, use it! I use mine everyday as it records both my steps as well as my cardio steps. This helps me to challenge myself to go further, faster or longer as well as to stay on track. Also, your pedometer can be a little more accurate than most cardio machines at your local gym as far as your steps, mileage and calories are concerned.
To improve your overall health, fitness and wellness, start off at an easy and comfortable pace if you’re new to exercise or have a pre-existing injury that may be aggravated. Everyone should get in at least 30-40 minutes which can be done in 10-15 minute increments 2-3 times a day (especially on those days that you’re short on time). When walking with a time restriction, walk in one direction for 10 minutes at a comfortably brisk pace, then turn around and come back for the same duration. This is a great way to burn some extra calories, especially at work during your lunch break.
Take Your Walking To The Next Level
Shoot for 5-6 days a week for walking with no more than one day off. If you initially find the thought of walking 5-6 days a week a little intimidating, you can add an aerobics class (i.e. Zumba, group exercise, hiking, etc.) to your weekly routine.
Put more emphasis on your walking and not on your time. Enjoy the scenery you’re walking by or the company you’re with versus looking at your watch. Remember your goal is a minimum 30 minutes a day, so if you go for an hour or two and you’re feeling great, fabulous!
Get Stronger, Faster and Healthier
Okay, so you’ve been walking for a few weeks and you’re feeling stronger and discovering an inner strength that has been untapped. Now its time to take your walking to the next level! Add another 5-10 minutes to your daily walk or just walk your same routine but try to shave off a few minutes by walking faster. Remember by increasing your speed, time and distance you can burn more calories and by engaging your core you’re tightening and strengthening your abs and back, so walk strong and go for it!