The Benefits of a Walking Routine

walking women

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. Walk­ing is safe be­cause it rarely causes in­juries when done cor­rectly. Run­ning causes more in­juries be­cause you take both feet off the ground at the same time and land with a tremen­dous force. When you walk, you al­ways keep at least one foot on the ground and land with min­i­mal foot strike force.

If you want to walk to be­come fit, you need to move quickly. You should ex­er­cise vig­or­ously enough to in­crease your heart rate at least 20 beats a minute higher than when you rest. That means you will be breath­ing harder and prob­a­bly per­spire. There are two ways to in­crease your walk­ing speed. You can ei­ther take longer steps or you can move your feet at a quicker rate. To lengthen your stride, swivel your hips so you reach out fur­ther for­ward with your feet. To move your feet at a quicker rate, move your arms faster. Every time you move one leg forward, your arm on the same side moves back and the arm on the other side moves forward. Your legs will only move as fast as you can move your arms.

Walk­ing for fit­ness can help you achieve a num­ber of im­por­tant health ben­e­fits such as:

  • Re­duc­ing your risk of a heart at­tack
  • Man­ag­ing your blood pres­sure
  • Re­duc­ing your risk of de­vel­op­ing type 2 di­a­betes
  • Man­ag­ing your di­a­betes if you all ready have it
  • Man­ag­ing your weight
  • Managing stress and boost­ing your spir­its

Wear good com­fort­able walk­ing shoes that pro­vide proper sup­port and don’t cause blis­ters. You should wear loose fit­ting, com­fort­able, and pro­tec­tive cloth­ing in lay­ers to ad­just to chang­ing tem­per­a­ture. If walk­ing early in the morn­ing or at night, wear bright col­ors or re­flec­tive tape so that mo­torists can see you.

Spend about five min­utes walk­ing slowly to warm up your mus­cles. Warm­ing up your muscles re­duces your risk of in­jury. 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.

Beginning Your Walking Workout

It’s a good idea to start slow by walk­ing only as far as or as fast as you find com­fort­able. If you can walk for only a few min­utes, let that be your start­ing point. Then, over sev­eral weeks’ time, you can grad­u­ally in­crease your dis­tance and pace.

Use proper tech­nique to avoid in­jury and set­backs. If your pos­ture is poor or your move­ments ex­ag­ger­ated, you in­crease your risk of in­jury.

Mea­sure the in­ten­sity of your work­out. To find out if you’re ex­er­cis­ing within the range of your tar­get heart rate, stop ex­er­cis­ing to check your pulse man­u­ally or wear an elec­tronic de­vice that dis­plays your heart rate. An­other sim­ple way to mea­sure your in­ten­sity is that you should be able to carry on a con­ver­sa­tion with the per­son you’re walk­ing with.

Keep track of your progress by keep­ing a record of how many steps you take, the dis­tance you walk and how long it takes. Use an elec­tronic de­vice such as a pe­dome­ter or other high-tech de­vice that uses GPS to cal­cu­late time and dis­tance for you. You can record these num­bers in a walk­ing jour­nal you cre­ate for your­self or log them in a spread­sheet on your com­puter.

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 stretches.

To stay mo­ti­vated find a walk­ing part­ner or lis­ten to music. Also be sure to vary your rou­tine to pre­vent bore­dom.

Start­ing a walk­ing for fit­ness rou­tine takes ini­tia­tive. Stick­ing with it takes com­mit­ment. But when you think of the po­ten­tial health ben­e­fits, it’s well worth your ef­fort.

11 Ways to Pump Up Your Walk

Let’s face it: Some of us aren’t run­ners. Nor do we want to be. In­stead, we anti-run­ners can take to the streets and side­walks for an­other form of car­dio: Walk­ing. Per­fect for work­out min­i­mal­ists, walk­ing takes al­most no equip­ment — just good sup­port­ive shoes — and can be done any­where. But if you’ve walked and walked and walked around the block so many times that you could do it in your sleep, blind­folded and blinded by your bored tears, you need to spice it up. Luck­ily there are nu­mer­ous ways to keep your walk­ing work­out from get­ting stale. And if sim­ply pick­ing up the pace is no longer chal­leng­ing you, here are a few ideas to spice it up and in­crease the burn!

  1.  Add hills or stairs. Adding a ver­ti­cal el­e­ment to your walk­ing reg­i­men is a sure­fire way to in­crease the burn. Whether you’re walk­ing up hills, stair­cases or bleach­ers, work­ing against grav­ity will get your heart pump­ing and your buns fir­ing. Pick a hilly neigh­bor­hood, use your of­fice stair­well after hours or head to a high school or uni­ver­sity foot­ball field to take ad­van­tage of the added chal­lenge.
  2.  Change up the pace. To pre­vent bore­dom and work­out plateaus, start in­ter­spers­ing higher-in­ten­sity in­ter­vals with lower-in­ten­sity re­cov­ery pe­ri­ods. The Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Ex­er­cise (ACE) says that pick­ing up your walk­ing pace for a few min­utes be­fore re­turn­ing to your usual speed in­creases the in­ten­sity and calo­rie-burn­ing po­ten­tial of your walk. So push your­self, re­cover, re­peat.
  3. Change the scenery. If you’re used to walk­ing around your block, get cre­ative! Go to the mall, an out­door track, a uni­ver­sity cam­pus, a beau­ti­ful new neigh­bor­hood, down­town — any­where that will bust the bore­dome.
  4. Walk with a friend. If a change of scenery doesn’t make your work­out more in­ter­est­ing, try bring­ing a friend along for the walk. You may end up walk­ing far­ther and longer when you’re dis­tracted by con­ver­sa­tion. Plus, a lit­tle friendly com­pe­ti­tion is good for pick­ing up the pace and push­ing your­self harder, and you’ll be more likely to stick with a pro­gram if you do it with a friend or loved one.
  5. Get wet. Walk in the water at your local pool. Water adds extra re­sis­tance while being easy on the joints, so strap on a flota­tion belt and get splash­ing.
  6. In­cor­po­rate the kids. Whether you push a stroller or wear your child in a car­rier, adding in­fants and small chil­dren to your walk both in­creases the re­sis­tance and gives you com­pany on the walk.
  7. Use ton­ing shoes. Ton­ing shoes, un­like reg­u­lar ath­letic shoes, have more rounded soles and extra cush­ion­ing to alter the wearer’s stride. Many of the ton­ing shoe man­u­fac­tur­ers claim that the al­tered gait in­creases the burn. Al­though an Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Ex­er­cise study showed that ton­ing shoes don’t ac­tu­ally help wear­ers ex­er­cise more in­tensely, burn more calo­ries or im­prove mus­cle strength and tone, if you’re bored with your reg­u­lar shoes and want a lit­tle added in­ter­est to your walk­ing rou­tine, these shoes could be just the ticket — es­pe­cially if they mo­ti­vate you to hit the pave­ment.
  8. Do upper body work. Vig­or­ously in­cor­po­rate your upper body to in­crease the in­ten­sity of your walk. Pump­ing your arms briskly helps, plus prod­ucts on the mar­ket today, like the Jyze, a light­weight ton­ing de­vice, or Nordic walk­ing poles, also in­cor­po­rate your arms and shoul­ders for a full-body walk­ing work­out. Many ex­perts don’t rec­om­mend walk­ing with weights be­cause it can in­ter­fere with proper pos­ture, but if you choose to walk with light weights, pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to align­ment. Bet­ter yet, set up a sta­tion with weights and use them when you take breaks from walk­ing.
  9. Add head­phones. To keep from get­ting bored, pump up the fast-paced tunes. Crank up your up­beat tunes (no slow, sappy stuff when you’re work­ing out!) and walk to the beat. If you need a break from music, lis­ten to pod­casts or books on tape.
  10. Walk back­wards. If you’re look­ing for a dif­fer­ent point of view, walk­ing back­wards will def­i­nitely do the trick. In ad­di­tion to re­quir­ing greater con­cen­tra­tion, walk­ing back­wards also de­vel­ops the ham­strings that run down the back of the thigh, help­ing to bal­ance quadri­ceps mus­cles in the front of the thigh, which an Arthri­tis Foun­da­tion study showed may con­tribute to knee os­teoarthri­tis in peo­ple with mis­aligned knees. Plus, it makes you stand up straighter and dis­trib­utes your weight more evenly, which can lessen joint pain, ac­cord­ing to Arthri­tis Today.
  11. Take it in­doors. Hop on a tread­mill while catch­ing up on your lat­est TV ad­dic­tion. Ad­just the tread­mill speed and in­cline man­u­ally, or choose a pre­set work­out pro­gram on the tread­mill to keep your body guess­ing.

As you can see, walk­ing doesn’t have to be bor­ing at all, and you’re only lim­ited by your imag­i­na­tion! In­cor­po­rate one or two of these strate­gies the next time you go on a walk and it’ll seem like a fresh ex­er­cise rou­tine you’ll want to con­tinue.


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