The Benefits of Walking
Walking is one of the easiest and most popular forms of exercise. You can do it anywhere, at any time. And, walking doesn't require any special equipment or training — just a comfortable pair of shoes.
For the Health of It
Regular exercise—such as walking — is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Not only can it help you achieve a healthy weight, but it also can:
- Tone your muscles
- Boost your cardiovascular endurance
- Help reduce stress and tension
- Increase your energy level
- Help reduce the risk of certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure
Get Ready, Get Set…
It’s simple to start a walking program. But, here are a few important points to consider beforehand.
- See your doctor. If you’re age 40 or older, have prior injuries or if you’ve been inactive for a while, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. He or she also may give you suggestions on how to get the most out of your fitness routine.
- Protect your feet. Make sure you have sturdy walking shoes that offer good support, shock absorption and traction. Also, wear appropriate athletic socks.
- Wear comfortable clothes. Choose lightweight fabrics—such as cotton—that will keep you cool. Or, look for special materials that help absorb moisture and keep it away from your skin.
- Stay safe. Use a well-lit path or trail. And, consider working out with a friend or group of people.
Once you have your doctor’s OK and the proper attire, you’re ready to get moving. Keep these tips in mind for a safe, effective workout.
- Warm up and cool down. Let your body temperature rise gradually for about five minutes before you hit your stride. Stretching your muscles before and after your workout also can help prevent injury and soreness. Ask your doctor or an experienced trainer for tips on how to properly stretch.
- Start slowly. Begin by walking for five or 10 minutes. As your fitness level increases, work your way up to longer distances.
- Go at a comfortable pace. Don’t worry about speed. Regardless of how fast or slow you’re walking, your body will still benefit from the workout.
- Focus on posture. Keep your back straight, head lifted and shoulders relaxed.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout.
- Change the scenery. Is the weather not cooperating? Go for a walk on a treadmill or around the mall. Tired of your same route? Try a new walking trail, or a different neighborhood or park. Varying your routine can help keep you motivated.
- Make it an everyday habit. Try to walk for at least 20 minutes, most days of the week. Remember—the more you walk, the better you may feel.