As we look forward to some nicer weather coming our way, most of us are unpacking
those sneakers, shorts and teashirts, and are ready to hit the pavement. Studies show
that physical activity is essential for healthy living. A minimum of 30 minutes of
activity per day to reduce disease risk, and 60 to 90 minutes per day to lose weight.
People who are usually inactive can improve their health and well-being by becoming
even moderately active on a regular basis.
Walking for fitness:
How to trim your waistline, boost your spirits and improve your health.
Walking is a gentle, low-impact exercise that can ease you into a higher level of
fitness and health. It's one of your body's most natural forms of exercise. It's
safe, simple and doesn't require a lot of practice, and the health benefits are many.
Here's what you need to know to get started.
Benefits of walking Walking for fitness can help you achieve a number of important health benefits. For
example you can:
- Reduce your risk for heart attack. Walking keeps your heart healthy by lowering
low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and raising high-density
lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol). A regular walking program
also reduces your risk of developing high blood pressure, a factor that contributes
to heart disease.
- Manage your blood pressure. If you already have a high blood pressure, walking can
help reduce it.
- Reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise reduces your
risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you're female, overweight and at a high risk
of diabetes, walking can improve your body's ability to process sugar (glucose intolerance)
- Manage your diabetes. If you already have type 2 diabetes, taking part in a regular
waking program can improve your body's ability to process sugar, lower your blood
sugar, reduce your risk of heart disease and help you live longer.
- Manage your weight. Walking burns calories, which can help you manage your weight.
For example, middle-aged women who walk more then 10, 000 steps a day, have lower
levels of body fat than do women who are less active.
-Manage stress and boost your spirits. Going for a brisk walk is a great way to
reduce stress. Regular walking also can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
Prepare yourself before each walking session
-Take time to prepare yourself to prevent injuries, such as blisters on your feet
or muscle pain.
-Wear walking shoes and comfortable, protective clothing. Before you set out, be sure
to select comfortable footwear. Also dress in loose-fitting comfortable clothing
and in layers if you need to adjust to the temperature. If you walk outside, choose
clothes appropriate for the weather. Avoid rubberized materials, as they don't allow
perspiration to evaporate. Wear bright colors or reflective tape after dark so that
motorists can see you.
-Warm Up. Spend about five minutes walking slowly to warm your muscles. You can walk
in place if you want. Increase your pace until you feel warm. Warming up your muscles
reduces your risk of injury.
-Stretch. After warming up, stretch your muscles for about five minutes before walking.
Include the calf stretch, quadriceps stretch, hamstring stretch, lower back flexion
stretch and chest stretch.
Tips for Pedestrians
-Only cross the street at a crosswalk
-Pay careful attention to road signs and cars around you. Don't assume that cars
will stop when they should .
-Follow traffic signals, and don't cross the street unless the sign says "walk".
-If walking at night, wear bright, reflective clothing, and be sure not to walk alone.
Getting started: Design a program that works for you
-Start slow and easy. If you're a seasoned walker, keep doing what you're doing. If
you've been inactive and tire easily, it's best to start slow and easy. At first,
walk only as far as or as fast as you comfortably can. If you can walk for only a
few minutes, let that be your starting point. For example, you might try short daily
sessions of three to five minutes slowly build up to 15 minutes twice a week. Then,
over several weeks' time, you can gradually work your way up to 20 minutes of walking
five days each week.
-Use proper technique to avoid injury and setback. Walking is a great exercise because
it's so simple to do. But if your posture is poor or your movements exaggerated,
you increase your risk of injury.
-Measure the intensity of your workout. As you walk, measure the intensity of your
workout. Knowing the level allows you to increase the intensity to maximize your workout
or slow down to avoid overdoing it. You have these options:
Talk test. If you are so out of breath that you can't carry on a conversation with the person
you are walking with , you are probably working too hard and should slow down.
Borg Scale. This method is a self-assessment of your perceived exertion. You rate how hard
you think you are working on a scale that ranges from six (no exertion) to 20 (maximal
effort). Aim for at least moderate intensity (12 to 14) as you walk.
Calculate your heart rate (pulse). To find out if you're exercising within the range of your target heart rate, stop
exercising to check your pulse manually at your wrist (radial artery) or your neck
(carotid artery). Another option is to wear an electronic device that displays your
-Keep track of your progress. Keeping a record of how many steps you take, the distance
you walk and how long it takes can help you see where you started from and serve as
a source of inspiration. Just think how good you will feel when you see how many
miles you have walked each week, month or year.
-Cool down after each walking session. To reduce stress on your heart and muscles,
end each walking session by walking slowly for about five minutes. Then, repeat your
-Stay Motivated: Set goals, have fun and stay in the game
Starting a walking program takes initiative. Sticking with it takes commitment. But
when you think of the potential health benefits, it's well worth the effort. Over
time, you'll likely feel more invigorated. To stay motivated:
-Set performance goals. People who can stick with a new behavior for six months usually
make it a habit.
-Make it fun. If you don't like walking alone, invite your spouse, partner, friend
or neighbor to join you. You might also join a health club and use a treadmill.
-Vary your routine. Plan several different walking routes for variety. But if you're
walking alone, be sure to tell someone which route you're taking. Use the stairs
instead of the elevator. Park your car a few blocks from the office or store and walk
the rest of the way. If you take public transportation, get off a stop or two early
and walk the remaining few blocks.