Did you know that inactivity is the second most preventable cause of death in North America, after smoking? Almost 40% of adults spend the majority of the day sitting and only half of all adults do enough exercise to gain any health or fitness benefits. Is this you? Want to change that? You don’t have to join an expensive fitness club or start something that requires special training or equipment. Just get walking!
Walking is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to up your fitness level. You can do it outdoors in fine weather and indoors, in malls or some public buildings in bad weather. It can be just as beneficial as jogging to your health.
Ideally, work up to walking 30-60 minutes a day, most days of the week. This is what experts recommend for your health and fitness. Walking can help you reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It will lift your mood, improve balance, circulation and brain function and make your bones healthier.
Here are tips to get started:
- Before starting a walking program check with your Doctor. Even if you have certain medical conditions or are recovering from recent injury, you will likely still be able to walk. Just get advice first.
- Buy good walking shoes. This is the only equipment expense, but a good pair of walking shoes is important. Make sure they fit without pinching or pressure and try them on with the socks you plan to wear. The shoes should have good arch support and a slightly elevated heel with strong support at the back to cradle your heel and prevent sideways movement.
- Warm up first. Walk at a normal pace for about 5 minutes before upping your speed. And start your walk itself with a simple goal – perhaps 10-15 minutes. Gradually increase the distance.
- Walk properly. Head up, back straight, tummy in and use a good heel-to-toe motion. Swing your arms. Keep the length of your stride moderate. Walk at a pace that challenges you and raises your heart rate (your breathing will increase), but make sure you can still talk. If you can’t, you’re overdoing it.
- Carry and drink water. This is important if you walk in hot weather or over long distances.
- Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. The sun can burn you any time of year.
- Wear layers – You will warm up as you go, so it’s best to wear clothing in layers you can remove and put in a small backpack or tie around your waist.
- Keep it interesting and varied. We all get bored if we don’t change it up. Walk with a buddy or in a group, vary your route and look for different types of terrain (hills, valleys). Time yourself and challenge yourself to finish sooner. Enjoy the sights and sounds around you.
- Cool down and stretch afterward. Walk at a slower pace for another 5 minutes at the end. Gently stretch your hamstrings by standing on a step and, holding the handrail, let your heels drop below the edge of the step. Do this a few times.
- Be aware of your foot health. Don’t wait for injury to sideline you. Check your feet frequently to make sure you are not developing blisters, corns or calluses. If you are prone to blisters, they might be prevented by using the Life Brand Anti-Blister Stick. If you develop foot problems or get blisters, corns or calluses, protect and treat them promptly. Check with your Doctor, especially if you have diabetes or poor circulation. Your Pharmacist can also advise you on which Life Brand Corn and Callus Cushions or Removers are right for you.
If some days you cannot manage a full walk, do a short one – go out and walk at lunch. Work more of it into your day: get off the bus early or park further from your destination, walk up or down a few floors in your office building, or walk to do your errands. Walk yourself fitter- any way you can!