Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise. It is low impact and is the preferred choice of exercise by health experts. After all, with the exception of a small percentage of the population, we all started doing it between 12 and 18 months of age and it’s something we do every day. All you need is a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothing, and the ability to open the front door!
Before you start any kind of new activity level it’s important to check with your doctor to be certain there aren’t any limitations to what you can do.
Benefits of Walking
- Burns calories
- Strengthens back muscles
- Slims your waist
- Easy on your joints
- Strengthens your bones
- Lowers blood pressure
- Allows time with family and friends
- Shapes and tones your legs and buttocks
- Cuts cholesterol
- Reduces risk of heart disease, diabetes, & more
- Reduces stress
- Helps you sleep better
- Improves mood and outlook on life
- Can be done almost anywhere
- Requires no equipment
- AND it’s Free
How to start
Start out slow and easy. For most people this means head out the door, walk for 10 minutes, and walk back. Do this every day for a week. If this was easy for you, add five minutes to your walks the following week for a total walking time 25 minutes daily. Keep adding to your walk in 5 minute increments until you are walking as long as desired.
WATCH your posture. Walk tall. Think of elongating your body. Hold your head up and eyes forward. Your shoulders should be down, back and relaxed. Tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks and fall into a natural stride.
Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after walking. Incorporate a warm up, cool down and stretches into your routine. Start your walk at a slow warm up pace, stop and do a few warm up stretches. Then walk for the desired length of time. End your walk with the slower cool down pace and stretch well. Stretching will make you feel great and assist in injury prevention.
The toughest thing about starting a fitness program is developing a habit. Walking daily will help (a minimum of 5 days a week is a good goal). You should walk fast enough to increase your heart rate, but you should not be gasping for air.
For general health benefits try to walk 30 minutes a day, most days of the week, at a “talking” pace. Talking pace means that you have elevated breathing, but you can still carry a conversation.
To improve cardiovascular fitness you should walk 3 to 4 days a week, 20 to 30 minutes at a very fast pace. At this pace you are breathing hard but not gasping for air.
If you are walking for weight loss you should walk a minimum of five days a week, 45 to 60 minutes at a brisk pace.
If you’re new to walking, start off with slow, short sessions and build your way up gradually. If you have any health concerns or medical conditions, be sure to check with your doctor for advice before you begin a routine.
Tips to improve your experience
Walk with a family member or a friend. Your daily walk is a perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with a family member or friend with a conversation in the great outdoors.
Select different routes. Going the same way all the time can get boring. Try out different routes to see which provides the most interesting sights along the way.
Look for places to walk off the beaten path. A local park, zoo, arboretum, pond, or stream can all be great places to walk and maybe get in some wildlife viewing too! Most urban areas have plenty of parks and green spaces to walk in. The locations should be available through the parks and recreation website in your community.
Make your walk a special event. Periodically take an extra long walk. Pack a light lunch and visit one of the amazing regional, state or national parks and forests.
Purchase a pair of binoculars. It’s amazing the wildlife you’ll find out there if you just stop and take a look.