Taking One Step At a Time – Walking Your Way to Better Health
A daily walking programme of at least 30 minutes has been shown to be beneficial for many reasons. Not only does it improve muscle activity, maintain bone density, and improve balance and proprioception, it also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, glaucoma, bowel cancer, and even dementia.
Probably one of the biggest challenges of a walking programme is getting started with a daily routine. Setting a daily target of 20 to 30 minutes of continuous walking is manageable for most of us and you should be able to sustain this routine and make it a staple part of your schedule, no matter how hectic it may be, or whatever the weather.
Before You Start Fitness Walking
Consult with your doctor. It is always best to consult with your doctor before starting a fitness walking programme, especially if you have serious health issues. This is also recommended to people who are above the age of 40 and those who have been inactive for some time.
Invest in comfortable shoes. When walking, you need to wear shoes that fit well and provide comfort and support so you avoid having an injury. Choose training or running shoes that secure across the instep and in the heel, but are roomy enough so you can still wiggle your toes.
Wear comfortable clothing. Choose clothes that allow you to move freely. Wear thin layers, so you can add or remove them depending on varying weather conditions.
Protect yourself from the sun. Be sure to wear sunscreen and put on a cap or sunglasses for outdoor walking to protect your eyes from UV exposure.
Getting Started with Your Walking Programme
Warm up with a 5-minute, slow-paced walk. Begin at a comfortable pace, then gradually increase your speed so you’re walking briskly, which is about 3 to 4 miles an hour. At this rate, you should be breathing hard, but still able to carry on a conversation.
Use a pedometer (above). This is a great way to track your steps as well as motivate you to walk some more and reach your goal. Generally, it is ideal to increase your average daily steps every week by 500 per day until you reach an average of 10,000 steps per day.
Get ample hydration. Take a bottle of water with you, especially if you are planning on walking for half an hour or more.
During the last 5 minutes of your walk cool down by slowing down your pace. After walking, do some stretches, such as the calf stretch (below left), piriformis stretch, standing groin stretch, hip stretch, kneeling lunge, and downward facing dog (below right).
Walking is such a great exercise because, aside from weight loss and cardiovascular health, you get to go out and get some fresh air and sunlight. It’s a perfect way to start your day and get energized, or even end a grueling day and de-stress. So, if you have not yet started a fitness walking routine, today is the best day to start!