When you think of getting fit, you might think about working out in a gym or yoga, maybe even a sport. But did you know that one of the best ways to get fit is to walk?
The unassuming act of walking offers some great health benefits. What’s more, it’s free, uncomplicated, and does not require any equipment. It is low impact and easy on the joints. Once you include it in your daily routine, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start a walking program sooner.
You can walk, no matter what the weather is. If it’s cold outside, you can find indoor spaces such as the mall. Investing in a treadmill can also offer options for convenience.
If you cannot find time in your schedule to dedicate to walking, you can be more intentional with routine tasks like taking the stairs at work. Park your car a little further away from the entrance of the grocery store, doctor’s office, restaurant.
All you need to begin is to be intentional about doing more to include walking in your day.
Here are some tips to keep in mind before you start walking:
- Choosing the right shoes is critical. Make sure your shoes have a firm heel, proper arch support, and thick soles. The right shoes cushion your feet as well as absorb shock.
- Always wear clothes that are comfortable and appropriate for the weather. If you are walking outdoors when it’s dark, wear brightly colored clothes or ones that have reflective tape to help visibility.
- When walking outdoors, keep safety in mind and walk on even turf. Walk around areas that are well-lit and designated for pedestrians.
- When you begin walking, allow your body to warm up by walking at a slow pace for about five to ten minutes. Like any other workout, this allows your muscles to warm up for exercise.
- Before you finish your walk, reduce your pace for the last five to ten minutes to allow your muscles to cool down. You can also gently stretch before warm-up and after cooling down.
- Always make sure you’re adequately hydrated before and after the walk.
As you walk, keep your posture in mind when walking. Ideally, you’ll want to keep your head up looking forward, not at the ground. Your neck, shoulders, and back should be relaxed, not stiffly upright. Swinging your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows. A little pumping with your arms is OK. Your core muscles should be tightened slightly, and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward. Walk smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.
(Mayo Clinic, 2019)
Benefits of walking:
- Helps burn calories and reduce weight: Walking can help you burn calories and maintain or lose weight. It’s important to know that the calorie burn depends on factors like your weight, speed of walking, and distance covered. It also depends on the terrain as walking uphill will burn more calories than walking on a flat surface. (Healthline, 2018)
Regular walking improves your body’s response to insulin, and this helps to reduce belly fat. You could add variety to your walking routine by changing your route, including uphill terrain like slopes, if possible, and even alternating between brisk walking and slow walking.
- Eases joint pain: Walking can reduce arthritis-related pain and walking about five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis. The knees and hips are most susceptible to osteoarthritis. Walking can protect these joints by lubricating and strengthening the muscles that support them.
- Better circulation: Walking increases your heart rate. It also lowers the blood pressure, strengthening the heart.
- Improves your mood: Walking reduces stress and improves your mood. It also releases endorphins, which help to reduce depression and increase self-esteem. Walking boosts your energy as it increases the flow of oxygen in the body.
- Improves creativity: Walking improves both convergent and divergent thinking, and this aids in problem solving and creativity. Sometimes walking can help you think clearly, especially if you want to search for a solution or look for new ideas.
No matter your age or fitness level, you can start walking and enjoy all the health benefits walking has to offer. The best time to start is today!
“Walk Your Way to Fitness.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 27 Feb. 2019. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20046261
Chertoff, Jane. “10 Benefits of Walking.” Healthline. Healthline Media, 08 Nov. 2018. Web. 17 Aug. 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-walking