Walking is my choice for exercise. Walking is fuss-free, there’s no cost, and it’s easy to schedule and if you do it regularly, it reduces the risk of heart disease and can help you burn fat and lose weight. Uphill walks work your calf muscles, hamstrings and buttocks. Downhill walks are great for your thighs, and walking on level ground works your abdominal muscles and lower back.
Where to Walk
Walk anywhere you like, whether it’s indoors on a treadmill or outside at the park, by the sea or around your local neighborhood. Experiment with different routes that will challenge you with hills and varying terrains. Park your car farther away from your destination than you need to. Walk to work or to the farthest bus stop or subway station. Take the stairs. Or get off the elevator one floor early and walk that extra flight. Give yourself time to walk. Leave home a half hour earlier or take 10 extra minutes to walk to the store.
How to Walk
The walking step is a rolling motion. Strike the ground with your heel, roll through and then push off with your toe. If your feet land flat, your shoes are probably too stiff. Watch your posture as you are walking. Imagine that you have a piece of string coming up through the top of your head. This visualization will straighten you up in seconds. Tighten abdominal muscles as you are walking by holding in your stomach which will support your lower back and keeps abdominal muscles strong. Swing arms naturally. They help give you rhythm and if you want to walk faster, don’t lengthen your stride, take shorter, quicker steps.
How Hard and Long to Walk
Start with a half-mile walk, three to four times a week. If you’ve been inactive, 15 minutes of walking may be plenty for your first few weeks. (It’s a good idea to discuss your plans with your doctor). Then increase the frequency, aiming for a 30-to 60-minute walk five days a week. As you build your level of fitness, steadily climb to a comfortably challenging pace. You should still be able to hold a conversation even though you’re breathing a lot harder. At the end of your session, you should be tired and sweaty but not exhausted. At this workout level your body is successfully burning calories. If you prefer to walk indoors on a treadmill, get your heart pumping by varying the machine’s speed and incline.
What to Wear:
Comfortable Clothes – Look for fabrics that draw sweat away from the skin. Wear layers, and peel them off as you warm up.
Athletic Shoes – Find shoes that aren’t overly snug, because feet swell as you walk. Cushioning under the heel and forefoot are important, as is flexibility, so the ball of your foot can move freely.
Socks – Choose fibers that evaporate sweat and prevent blisters. Try double-layered or padded socks for walks on hard ground.
Sun Protection – Wear a hat, plus a layer of waterproof sunscreen with an SPF between 15 and 30.
What to Bring:
Identification – Bring an ID, cell phone and a few dollars, in case of an emergency.
Portable Music Player – Your favorite tunes can motivate you to walk a little farther and faster.
Water Bottle – Drink before you start and every half hour, more often if you’re sweating.
Pedometer – This handy device measures steps taken and walking distance (this is optional).
I hope this gives you enough information to start walking! It’s easy, fun, convenient and you don’t need an expensive gym membership to get and stay fit! Just lace up your athletic shoes, open the front door and go! Until next time, stay happy, healthy and beautiful!