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Getting Started with a Walking Routine
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You have finally decided to get fit, to feel better and have more energy to do all things you want to do.  Don’t jump in too quick!  You need to help your body adapt to the demands of repetitive movement.  Take time to warm up and stretch before you exercise.  Don’t forget to cool down afterward.

A warm-up activity that uses the same muscles you will use during your workout is the best choice.  If you are going to take a brisk 30-minute walk, walk slowly for five to 10 minutes to warm up.

Walking is probably about the safest type of exercise you can do.  It is low-impact, which means it does not take a lot of wear and tear on your bones and joints.  It also has numerous health benefits.  Walking can also ease you into a higher level of fitness.  If you have done just about nothing in the way of exercise, walking is probably the safest way to start toward becoming fit.  When you master walking and become stronger then try other exercise routines like working out on a stair stepper or whatever else is available at your nearest YMCA or work-out gym.

Review the following health benefits walking can help you achieve:

  • It keeps your heart healthy by lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
  • If you have high blood pressure, walking may reduce it.
  • Regular exercise reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • If you already have type 2 diabetes, a regular walking program can improve your body’s ability to process sugar, lower your blood sugar, reduce your risk of heart disease and help you live longer.
  • Walking burns calories, which can help you, manage your weight.
  • A brisk walk is a good way to reduce stress.
  • Walking can help you to stay strong and active as you get older.

One of the important pieces of equipment you will need for your walking program is comfortable and supportive footwear.  Loose fitting, comfortable clothing is best for work-outs.  If you walk outside choose clothes appropriate for the weather.  Dress in layers if it is cold and of course, dress lighter for warm weather.  Avoid rubberized materials that do not allow perspiration to evaporate.  After dark think about wearing bright colors or reflective tape that motorists can see you better.

Remember your warm up period.  Warming up the muscles reduces chance of injury.  There are several difference stretches that you can perform as well.  If you are designing your own walking program, you might check with a local physical therapist for specific stretches to do before and/or after your work-out. 

For myself, I rushed into a walking program several years ago and developed a serious problem, which lead me to a podiatrist.  Since that time I have a specific stretching exercise I must do three times a day regardless of whether or not I work-out.  It is wise to ease into even the low-impact walking routines, do your warm-ups and cool downs.  Rushing into exercise without properly warming up the muscles can lead to serious injuries.

Review the following tips:

  • Start slow and easy
  • If you have been inactive and tire easily, at first, walk only as far as or as fast as you find comfortable.
  • If you can walk for only a few minutes, let that be your starting point, then add one minute the next work-out.  After several weeks you should be able to build up to a 30 minute walk
  • Walk with good posture, holding your back as straight as possible
  • Land on your heel, then roll to your toe.  Heel to Toe, Heel to Toe.
  • If you are so out of breath that you cannot carry on a conversation as you walk, you are probably walking too fast and should slow down.
  • Keep a record of the distance you walk or how long you walked for inspiration as you reach your walking goal of 30 minutes or so every day.
  • Always do your cool down after a walking session.  This helps reduce the stress on your heart and muscles.  End each walking session by walking slowly for about five minutes.  Repeat your stretches.

By Connie Limon
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