We all know that regular physical activity is an important ingredient of a healthy lifestyle. The benefits of exercise include lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. It can also boost your energy and mood, help manage your weight and promote a better night's sleep.
One of the simplest and least expensive ways of exercising is to start walking. Walking is low impact, safe, simple and requires no practice. It is a weight-bearing exercise that builds stronger bones and supports joints by strengthening muscles in the legs and abdomen. No equipment is needed - just comfortable and appropriate clothes and a good pair of walking shoes.
When you begin your walk, start out slowly to give your muscles a chance to warm up. This is done to avoid stress on the body, reducing the risk of injury to muscles and joints.
Walking techniques and tips:
- Keep your head high. Use good posture, keeping your chin parallel to the ground. Looking down prevents efficient breathing and changes the curve of your spine, straining your neck, shoulders and back. Pull stomach muscles in tight and gently lift your chest. Find your natural stride. Avoid locking your knees and step lightly (heel-ball-toe). Imagine a string pulling you up from the top of your head.
- After about 10 minutes of slow walking, your muscles are warmed up and some light stretching can be done to help prevent soreness and injury. Stretching is most important at the end of your walk. Stretching your quadriceps muscles, hamstring muscles, calf muscles and even upper body will feel wonderful. Sitting down immediately after your walk does not give your body a chance to cool down and may cause your muscles to tighten.
- Holding hand weights or wearing ankle weights is not recommended. You may put strain on your joints and throw off your balance, compromising your safety. Increasing your intensity can be achieved by walking faster, walking uphill or making arm motions overhead, forward or at your sides.
- Hydrate!!! Drink a glass of water before your walk, and bring water with you to drink during and after the walk. Dehydration can lead to lightheadedness, headaches, and sore muscles.
- When walking outdoors, walk with a friend, stay in safe areas and carry identification.