Walk Your Way to Fitness

Walk Your Way to Fitness

by: Lisa Ritchie

Walking may seem too easy to be considered a good workout, but new studies have shown that brisk walking can lower the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and body fat while increasing longevity. The added bonus is that walking can be done almost anywhere with very little investment in equipment – all you really need is comfortable clothing and a good pair of walking shoes.  Although there is no one perfect or "right" exercise, walking is a helpful tool towards fitness, along with flexibility and strength conditioning.

Before you get started, make sure you have a pair of sturdy walking shoes or sneakers. That means no high heels, no wedges, no heavy hiking boots, work boots, dress shoes or sandals. They should be well cushioned and flexible at the forefoot and shouldn’t slip in the heel. Your shoes should fit properly to eliminate the risk of blisters or bunions. In addition, be sure to get a clean bill of health from your doctor before starting any fitness program.

If you’re already exercising, walking seems like a light workout, but if you’re just launching your fitness program, it can be a good place to start. If you’re walking properly you’ll be using plenty of muscles and burning calories. Be sure to warm-up by walking slowly, strolling for the first quarter mile. If your shins hurt, you’re going too fast. Save your stretching for your cool-down after your walk. This is when muscles are warmed up and less subject to injury.  Be sure to stretch your calves, shins, roll your ankles, bend your toes, and stretch your hamstrings (the back of your thighs) and your quadriceps (the front of your thighs).

How fast is “brisk” walking? The easy way to measure is the talk test. You should be able to have a conversation while just slightly out of breath as you walk. Beginners can try a 22-minute mile pace as a starting point. When you can do a 14 to 17 minute mile, you are in the "brisk zone."

Be sure to stay within your target heart rate. This is determined approximately by subtracting your age from 220 (which gives you your maximum heart rate). Then multiply that number by .60. Then multiply it by .85. That is your target heart range. The result is the number of heart beats per minute you should be able to count while taking your pulse or simply wear a heart rate monitor (available in most fitness or sporting goods stores).

Keep in mind that you can progress several ways: frequency, duration or intensity. Beginning walkers should focus on the first two. Frequency can start at three times per week, increasing to five times per week. Duration depends upon your fitness level. Some people may find that they can walk comfortably for five minutes, others for an hour! For fitness try working up to 20 continuous minutes of brisk walking then build from there. Once you’ve achieved the maximum minutes (duration) and frequency your schedule allows, you can increase the intensity by increasing speed or adding hills, steps, skips or jumps.

Remember that swinging your arms naturally from the shoulder, elbows slightly bent so they cross your midsection, head up and rolling your foot from heel to toe while using a smaller stride will increase your speed. Never use hand or ankle weights as they can ruin your form and increase the risk of injury. If you want to increase your intensity by adding weights, wear an equally weighted vest. Keep your shoulders down, abdominals tucked in and walk with a purpose! Don’t forget your water bottle and identification.

 

© 2011 by AlkalineLifestyle.com.  All rights reserved

 

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration.  The preceding information and/or products are for educational purposes only and are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, or treat illness. Please consult your doctor before making any changes or before starting ANY exercise or nutritional supplement program or before using this information or any product during pregnancy or if you have a serious medical condition.


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