Enjoy better health and experience the benefits of walking for fun and fitness. Here are four reasons you should consider walking, and seven helpful tips.
Walking for Exercise
Walking is easier on your body than exercise that is more vigorous, such as running and competitive sports, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good exercise. Walking can be tailored to most fitness levels and health needs. A walking for fitness program can start slowly and increase as you build stamina and strength, without any equipment, and it is free.
Walking Is a Whole Body Workout
Have you ever just watched someone walk? Not a racer, and not someone ambling along, but just a normal person walking quickly. Their body moves in synchronized motion, all of the joints, muscles, and tendons. The feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, and hips work in rhythm, and it doesn’t stop there.
The upper body is working as well. At a normal pace, a walker’s arms swing along with the rest of their body — not the small, closely held motion of a runner, but full arm swings. The back, midriff, chest, and shoulders roll with the motion as well. The walker’s head is erect, and though the head does not move, supporting the head as the body moves exercises the neck as well.
Advantages of Walking
Doctors say that people who walk regularly can often attain better long-term health and suffer fewer injuries than someone who exercises more vigorously because walking has minimal impact on your bones and joints.
Even moderate stretching required by some activities may be a problem for seniors or others with joint problems, but if you can walk, you can walk for fitness.
Benefits of Walking
Some specific benefits of walking for exercise that Harvard Medical School notes include:
- Lower blood pressure and reduced risk of stroke
- Decreased risk of heart attack and lower cholesterol
- Increase in bone density and lower risk of broken bones
- Increased sense of well-being
- Additional benefits I have noticed during my own walking program are fewer headaches, greater flexibility, and improved coordination. Once into a progressive walking routine, adding walking poles to the plan can increase the benefit without spending more time.
7 Tips for Maximum Benefit From Walking for Exercise
Check with your health care provider before you start — explain you are starting a walking for exercise plan, and make certain there are no health issues that could cause you problems.
Make a plan — Once your health care provider clears you to increase your physical activity, plan your way to greater fitness. Harvard Medical suggests starting with five minutes of fitness walking twice a week, and gradually increasing to fifty minutes of walking exercise six days a week, over twelve weeks. Walk at a pace that pushes you, but at which you can still carry on a normal conversation.
Push yourself gently — If you have been sedentary for a while, don’t rush in, even if you were a competitor in the past. The benefits of walking for fitness are cumulative, but so are the effects of inactivity. Give your body a chance to adjust. If you are really out of shape, start by parking a few stalls farther away each time you go out, or consider walking to errands rather than driving. Take a flight of stairs rather than the elevator for additional walking during your regular routine.
Dress appropriately for the weather — You will warm up as you walk when moving at a good pace; don’t overheat or get too cold.
Wear decent shoes — You don’t need special shoes. But your shoes should fit well so you don’t trip, and they need to protect your feet. As you progress, you may want to invest in a pair of walking shoes.
Be safe — Walk in areas that are safe to walk. You probably know areas that are not suitable because of terrain, obstacles, or crime. Stay safe. Walk with a friend or a group, so that if you encounter any problems, someone is close by to help, even if the problem is that you went too far out and are having difficulty making it back. Take your cell phone with you.
Warm up and cool down — Walk at your normal walking pace for five minutes before walking for fitness, and for five minutes after.
Keep well hydrated — Hydration is an essential component of healthy living. Make sure to drink enough water — alkaline water, if possible — before, during, and after you exercise to replenish lost fluids and help rehydrate your body.
Enjoy Stress-Free Weight Loss, Increased Stamina, and Better Flexibility
Above all, enjoy the walk. I am amazed by how much more of creation I see, hear, and feel when I walk compared to when I drive or bicycle. Combine healthy food choices with a progressive walking exercise plan, and one additional benefit may be stress-free weight loss. Weight loss, increased stamina, improved flexibility, and lowered risk of heart attack and stroke combine to commend walking for exercise as a winner.