Walking is a great, low-impact way to improve your health and fitness level. Plus it’s safe, free and accessible to just about everyone.
The benefits of regular walking are tremendous! Specifically, walking can improve your overall health and fitness by…
- lowering your cholesterol
- lowering your blood pressure
- improving your cardiovascular endurance
- increasing your bone strength
- helping you manage your weight
- improving your mood
- reducing stress and anxiety
First and foremost, you should discuss your plans to begin an exercise program with your doctor, especially if you have any medical conditions or take any medications. Your doctor can help you safely start an exercise program.
Next, decide where you’re going to walk and plan your route. If you think you may need some supervision from time to time, consider walking indoors at the mall or a fitness center. If you’re walking outside, remember to check the weather and dress appropriately – that includes wearing sunscreen on exposed areas.
To avoid injury, be sure to wear the proper footwear. Stop by your local running shop to get fitted for the right shoes based on your feet and gait. It’s also important to be aware of your form. When walking, be sure to stand up tall with your shoulders down and back, and your chest high. Protect your lower back by pulling your belly button toward your spine to draw in your tummy. Also, protect your neck by keeping your chin parallel to the ground. When stepping, think “heel to toe.” To learn more about proper walking form, check out this article from SparkPeople.
Determine your intensity
Determining intensity can be confusing. Am I working out too hard or not hard enough? Think about intensity on a scale of 1-10 where 1=relaxing on the couch and 10=gasping for air. Your walking intensity should be moderate, so somewhere in the middle, about a 5 or 6 on the scale. You can always adjust your intensity based on how you’re feeling, or include some short bursts or intervals of more intense walking, and then work your way back to a moderate intensity.
Following a walking program is a great way to start including walking in your day. A good program will start you off slow and gradually build upon duration and distance. Remember, you can always modify a walking program to fit into your schedule and lifestyle. Check out this beginner walking program from Harvard Medical School.
For many, the hardest part of exercise is consistency. Use these tips to stay motivated and keep walking.
- Wear a pedometer and track your steps. Set small goals each week to increase your steps.
- Start small and build up your duration and distance gradually.
- Walk with your spouse, friend, or pet.
- Listen to music or walk on the treadmill while watching your favorite TV show.
- If you work, walk during your lunch break.
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