Thinking about improving your fitness but unsure where to start? It can be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other.
Walking for fitness has plenty of benefits. It’s easy to start, there is no need for expensive or special gear and you can do it no matter where you are. Walking is a joint-friendly, low-impact activity that helps you strengthen your muscles and bones, increase balance and endurance, and improves cardiovascular health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking briskly for 25 minutes, six days a week, can prevent disease and keep you healthy.
Here are some good tips to get started:
Before You Start a Walking Routine
Always check with your doctor before starting any physical routine, including walking. This is especially important if you have a chronic medical condition. Once you have the all-clear, shop for a good pair of walking shoes. Look for a pair that has extra toe room and a wider fit, comfortable arch support and a supportive sole. It’s important your walking shoes have extra cushioning and a slip-resistant sole to help prevent falls.
In addition, always pair walking shoes with moisture-wicking socks. These socks wick moisture away from your feet and help prevent blisters.
Think Safety as You Head Out
As with any physical routine, make sure you keep safety in mind. Always have ID with you and a fully charged cell phone. Know your route and let someone know you are heading out for a walk and when to expect you back. If you plan to listen to music or a podcast while you walk, be sure you can hear ambient noise like traffic or other people around you.
Start With a Warm Up
A warmup gets your body ready for walking, increases blood flow and helps prevent injury. Some good warmup exercises include:
- Shoulder rolls
- Arm circles
- Torso stretches
- Rolling onto the balls of your feet and back to your heels
- Ankle circles
Get Full Benefits From Your Walk
If you are just starting a walking program, start slowly and build up your endurance. Try 15-minute sessions walking at an easy pace. Once you are comfortable with that, add five-minute increments. As you add increments, increase your pace for the same amount of time in the middle of your walk. So, if you are walking for 20 minutes, minutes 10 through 15 would be at a brisk pace.
Make it a goal to get to 30 minutes of walking with two periods of brisk walking within that session for five days a week. When you achieve that, add in some squats and lunges at the midpoint in your daily routine.
After every walk, add in some cool-down stretches. These will help improve flexibility and prevent tight muscles later in the day. Gently stretch your calves, hamstrings, core and shoulders. Then gently massage your calves to prevent soreness the next day.
Learn more exercise tips for older adults.
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