Everyone can walk. Walking is the most convenient form of exercise. Other than a good, comfortable pair of shoes, you need no additional equipment. Also, you require no lessons, a coach or instruction. Plus you can walk anywhere, anytime. It’s an excuse-proof form of exercise.
If you already suffer from knee or back pain, running or jogging can be hard on the joints. But those with joint problems can easily adopt a walking program. Best of all, once you start walking, your joint discomfort may actually go away!
Changing your lifestyle from inactivity to activity requires commitment. If you are a beginner to walking for weight loss, or walking to improve your health by adding it to your fitness program, I hope these seven tips will help you have a successful start. From my own personal experience, I believe that you will find how walking is amazing and life-changing.
Tip #1 – Wear Proper Walking Shoes
Choose exercise shoes that are made for proper support. There are some good fitness shoes that are built specifically for walking. They provide better motion control, and cushion the impact against the ground you are walking on. Don’t use those beat-up old shoes you wear when mowing your lawn or doing yard work, that won’t cut it. They are broken down and they’re an invitation to ankle, knee, and joint problems.
I recommend that you go to a specialty store for running shoes (most running stores carry walking shoes as well). Ask a professional to fit you for your walking shoes. You want a shoe with a good arch support that bends with the natural contour of your foot. The shape of the shoes should conform with the shape of your foot.
Ignore the myth about shoes becoming more comfortable after you break them in. They won’t. If they don’t feel comfortable in the store, they will never feel comfortable. Do a test walk around the store. Pay attention to whether your heels slide up and down or if your toes are pinched — you’ll develop blisters. Does the arch support conform with your arch? Does the shoe bend where your foot wants to bend? Any pinching or pressing or rubbing will feel very uncomfortable after 5 or 10 minutes of walking.
Tip #2 – Dress Appropriately
Wear clothes that allow you to move comfortably and your body to breathe. If you are walking outdoors, be sure to dress for the temperature, too. Wearing a sweat suit to help you lose weight is dangerous, since it can cause dehydration and possibly bring on collapse. It’s a myth that sweat suits help you lose fat. The only thing lost is water and energy, and you can get dehydrated.
I prefer not to wear tight-fitting clothes because it restricts blood flow. The lack of return blood flow can make you feel tired and fatigued. When clothes are fitted too tight around the waist or legs, your heart has to work harder to help the blood to return. Did you know that tight clothes can also cause cellulite’s appearance to be worse? It’s because wearing tight clothes can impair the passage of blood flow and encourage the development of fat nodules in the thighs. Yikes!
Tip #3 – Warm Up Your Body
With any type of exercise, walking included, it is important to warm up your body by increasing your body temperature gradually and gently. Start all of your walks at a slow pace, walking slowly and relaxed for 5 minutes to allow your heart rate to adjust to the movement and blood to make its way to your muscles. You might stop and perform some light stretches for your muscles after your body as warmed up. After this light walking and warm-up increase the pace. A proper warm-up helps counteract post exercise soreness or injury.
Tip #4 – Cooling Down
As important as warming up is, so is cooling down after each exercise session. Your cool-down period should included several minutes of light stretching or normal paced walking. Spend the last 5 minutes walking slowly to help your body to adjust. Fueling your body afterwards is important as well. Elite athletes know that proper hydration and nutrition after exercise is important to help their body recover from exercise. You need to drink water to provide the needed fluids. If you need something light to eat afterwards, choose simple proteins such as a hard-boiled egg. Proteins help repair your muscles after exercise.
Tip #5 – Use a Pedometer
In addition to being a heart rate monitor, use a pedometer clipped to your belt or waistband to track your mileage. You may want to use a pedometer to count your steps during all of your days activities, or just while you’re doing your walking program. It is a great motivator that cues you to be more active. When you see it on your wrist or feel it on your waist, you’re prompted to get moving. Use a pedometer to help yourself steadily increase the number of steps you walk each day. Increasing your steps translates into more calories burned.
You want to increase your steps until you are walking 10,000 steps at least 5-6 days a week with a day off.
In the past, pedometers simply counted steps but now you can choose from a wide variety, many of which are convenient wristbands and do a lot more than just counting steps. One thing to keep in mind if you choose to wear a wristband pedometer – you need to swing your arms. If you are carrying something or pushing a cart in the grocery store, you may not get an accurate step count. The belt-waistband type pedometer tends to be more accurate counting steps throughout the day. But both will work well when you are doing dedicated walking for exercise.
Tip #6 – Try Walking Sticks / Exercise Poles
Exercise poles or commonly known as trekking poles, are specially designed ski poles for use during walking or hiking. They simulate the arm motion of cross-country skiing, helping to boost your upper body endurance and to strengthen the arms and shoulder muscles. Research shows that you can burn roughly 20 percent more calories than someone walking the same pace without poles. Exercise poles also help with stability and they’re great if you have knee or foot problems, too.
It takes a little time to get used to walking with poles. At first, they may seem awkward and clumsy to handle. It may take you 10 minutes or so to find your stride. Once you hit that rhythm, it will become almost meditative. You’ll find that you will be walking more erect with your shoulders more relaxed (I love this because my shoulders are usually slumping in front of my computer and that hurts my upper back muscles.)
Walking with poles will be more challenging for your heart rate because they take some of the work from your legs to your arms. They will help you to walk faster, which will improve your calorie burn and lift your mood. You will be getting more of a full-body workout. I find that the addition of walking poles adds excitement to my walks.
Tip #7 – Drink Enough Water
Before walking, drink 1-2 cups of water an hour before exercising. Continue to sip some water while exercising — about a half a cup or a full cup every 15 to 20 minutes. This become even more important in warm or hot weather to help prevent dehydration. After walking replace any fluid you’ve lost by drinking an additional cup or two of water. The fluids you drink should be cold.
With any type of exercise, your body will sweat and lose water as it tries to cool itself off. Even taking a brisk walk in warmer weather can cause your body to lose a pound of water, therefore it is important to drink water after exercising to replace this loss.
Once you return home, take off your shoes and have those 8-10 ounces of cool water. This will quench your thirst and replace important fluids you lost on your walk. Most importantly, drinking water will reduce your urge to have calorie-laden sodas, bottled fruit drinks, or a sugary snack.
Enjoy Your Walks!
Compared to other forms of exercise, walking isn’t as intense. But, it’s still important to use proper form to prevent any injury and to take precautions to protect your health and safety. Always consider the time of day you will be walking and the location — if you are walking on the street do you need reflective gear to be seen? If it is mid-day, do you need sun protection? Have you made sure that your clothing matches the weather and terrain? How can you avoid dehydration? When you are properly prepared your walking times will be truly enjoyable no matter if you’re walking on a treadmill at the gym or out on a walking path.