Are you getting tired of lazing around on the couch after work? Have you noticed a paunch developing around your midline that wasn't there a couple of months ago? If so, then you may be thinking about getting started on a fitness routine to boost your energy, mood, and physical health. But you don't have to get a gym membership or buy an expensive piece of machinery to get a good workout. All you need is a pair of walking shoes and an adventurous spirit! Walking is rapidly becoming one of the most popular forms of exercise throughout North America and Europe, and it has been proven to help promote cardiovascular health and weight loss. So what are you waiting for? Lace up those shoes and get walking!
Health Benefits of Walking
Many people are quick to dismiss walking as an effective form of exercise. But in fact, walking offers a plethora of health benefits for both men and women. These health benefits include:
- weight loss and maintenance
- reduced body fat
- lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke
- increased bone density (which lessens your risk of osteoporosis)
- improved flexibility and coordination
Who Can Start a Walking Program?
Walking is a great exercise because almost any man or woman can participate. And wherever you live, you can always find a place to walk. Walking is suitable for:
- young children and adolescents
- the elderly
- people recovering from injuries
- people dealing with chronic diseases
- those who want to improve their aerobic fitness
Aerobic walking is one of the best types of walking that you can do. Sometimes called speed walking or power walking, aerobic walking involves walking at a greater speed or intensity than usual in order to increase your heart rate. Aerobic walking is generally performed three to five times a week at two intensities:
- Moderate Intensity: Moderate intensity aerobic walking is performed at 45% to 55% of your target heart rate.
- High Intensity: High intensity aerobic walking is performed at 65% to 75% of your target heart rate.
To find your target heart rate simply subtract your age from 220. Then, multiply the result by the percentage you want to work at. During aerobic walking, increase or decrease your speed to help your heart reach this target heart rate. You can also add instruments, known as walking adjuncts, to help increase the intensity of your workout. Walking adjuncts include:
- hand weights
- wrist weights
- ankle weights
- walking poles
Walking for exercise offers numerous fitness benefits and, when combined with healthy diet, it can really help you to improve your health. Plus, walking requires only a few pieces of necessary equipment:
- Shoes: Your walking shoes are the most important part of your workout. You want to find comfortable shoes that are lightweight and sturdy. Look for shoes that have a rounded heel and flexibility throughout; this will help you to walk more naturally. Also, buy shoes that are breathable and water resistant (especially if you are going to be walking in all types of weather)
- Clothing: Your walking clothing should be lightweight and breathable. Find clothes made of natural materials, like cotton, and dress in layers. When you get hot, remove your excess layers. If you are going to be walking at night, add reflective tape to your clothes. This will alert cars, bicycles, and other vehicles to your presence.
- Pedometer: A pedometer is an instrument that measures exactly how far you've walked. You simply measure you stride, program the pedometer, and clip it to your belt. Pedometers are available at any fitness store for less than $20.
These Boots are Made For Walking: Starting a Walking Program
Walking programs are easy to implement and can help you to increase your aerobic fitness and overall strength. By following a simple walking schedule, you will find yourself walking all over town in no time. Here are some tips on how to start:
- Begin Slowly: Whatever fitness program you are involved in, it is important to start off slowly. If you begin too intensely, you are putting yourself at risk for a variety of different injuries. Begin with a short, ten-minute walk around the block. Keep a slow to moderate pace. Do this three to five times a week.
- Focus on Posture: Posture is very important when it comes to walking. If you walk with poor posture, you could give yourself an injury and your body won't receive maximum benefit from the workout. Be sure to walk with a straight back and relaxed shoulders. Try to elongate yourself from the ground up. Walk with your head up and your eyes forward at all times (this will keep you from running into things!) and focus on keeping your abdominal muscles and buttocks tight.
- Increase in Increments: As you feel your stamina building, begin to increase the length of your workouts. Increase your walks by about five minutes every week. Work up to walks that are 30 minutes or longer.
- Build Your Intensity: After a few weeks of walking at a moderate speed, build your intensity by pumping your arms or walking faster. Walking up hills and inclines is also great for adding to the intensity, and it will keep your walks from getting boring.
- Watch For Pain: If you feel pain during your walks, it is important to stop. If you continue to workout, you may exacerbate the injury or make the pain worse. Consult your health care provider and take a few days off.