2012: Tried-and-true exercise: Just try walking

Some fitness enthusiasts relentlessly seek the latest, trendiest exercises while others are returning to old-fashioned walking to help them feel great and get into shape. Whether enjoying the wonder of nature, or simply the company of a friend, walking can be a healthy, invigorating experience. And thanks to its convenience and simplicity, walking just might be right for you, too.

A sedentary lifestyle has a debilitating influence on people’s health as they age, so exercise is essential. Walking improves cardiovascular endurance, tones muscles of the lower body, reduces the risk of heart disease and burns calories. You burn about 80 calories if walking 2 miles per hour, and about 107 if walking 4.5 miles per hour.

You don’t need an expensive gym to go walking. And a good pair of walking shoes is the only equipment needed. 

Be sure to select the proper shoes. Too many people choose fashion over function when purchasing running shoes, not realizing that poor-fitting shoes can do more than hurt their stride; they can also lead to pain throughout the body.

Make sure the shoes you purchase fit properly. The balls of your feet should rest exactly at the point where the toe end of the shoe bends during walking.

Select shoes with plenty of cushioning in the soles to absorb the impact.

Shop for sneakers at the end of the day or after a workout when your feet are generally at their largest. Wear the type of socks you usually wear during exercise.

When trying on shoes, be sure to wear them for at least 10 minutes at the store.

Once you have a pair of shoes, don’t walk them into the ground. While estimates vary as to when is the best time to replace old shoes, most experts agree that between 300 and 500 miles is optimal.

Walk briskly. Simply sauntering, while relaxing and enjoyable, is not an effective form of cardiovascular exercise. Be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. 12 minutes of strait forward walking every other day can offer important health benefits. But in order to lengthen your livelihood, 30 minutes each day, five days per week is needed. “Active” adults should should plan to take 10,000 steps every day. Buy an inexpensive pedometer to clock your progress.

The following tips can help you get started on your walking regimen:

Move your arms freely, in coordination with the opposite leg.

Don’t stoop your head or look down as you walk. This will challenge the normal forward curve of your neck, which, in turn, will cause you to carry your weight improperly.

Don’t carry weights or dumbbells while walking. They’re better used as a separate part of your exercise regimen.

Expect a little soreness in the thighs and calves for the first week or two. If you experience more than soreness, check with your doctor.

Walking on a cushioned or rubberized track is ideal, because the cushioning of this type of track absorbs most of the impact of your walking. Many recreation centers offer this type of track free of charge. Grass is another good surface.

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