Walking for fitness: How to trim our waistline and improve our health

Walking is a low-impact exercise with numerous health benefits:

Walking is a gentle, low-impact exercise that can ease us into a higher level of fitness and health. It is one of our body’s most natural forms of exercise. It is safe, simple, does not require practice, and the health benefits are many.

Benefits of walking:

Walking for fitness can help us achieve a number of important health benefits.

For example, we can:-

Reduce our risk of a heart attack: Walking keeps our heart healthy by lowering Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol ( “bad” cholesterol) and raising High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol ( “good” cholesterol). A regular walking program also reduces our risk of developing high blood pressure, a factor that also contributes to heart disease.

Manage our blood pressure: If we already have high blood pressure, walking will reduce it.

Reduce our risk of developing “Type 2 Diabetes”: Regular exercise reduces our risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If we have overweight and if we are at a high risk of diabetes, walking will improve our body’s ability to process sugar (glucose tolerance).

Manage our diabetes: If we already have Type 2 Diabetes, taking part in a regular walking program can improve our body’s ability to process sugar, lower our blood sugar, reduce our risk of heart disease and help us live longer.

Manage our weight: Walking burns calories, which can help us manage our weight. For example, middle-aged women who walk more than 10,000 steps a day have lower levels of body fat than do women who are less active.

Manage stress and boost our spirits: Going for a brisk walk is a great way to reduce stress. Regular walking also can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

Stay strong and active: As we get older, walking for physical fitness can prevent falls, help us stay mobile and maintain our independence.

Preparations before going for walking:

We must take time to prepare ourselves to prevent injuries, such as blisters on our feet or muscle pain.

We must wear walking shoes and comfortable, protective clothing: Before we set out, we must make sure to select comfortable footwear. Also, we must dress in loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and in layers if we need to adjust to changing temperature. If we walk outside, we must choose clothes appropriate for the weather. We must avoid rubberized materials, as they do not allow perspiration to evaporate. We must wear bright colours or reflective tape after dark so that motorists can see us.

Warming up: We must spend about five minutes walking slowly to warm up our muscles. We can walk in place if we want. We can increase our pace until we feel warm. Warming up our muscles reduces our risk of injury.

Stretching: After warming up, we must stretch our muscles for about five minutes before walking. We can include the calf stretch, quadriceps stretch, hamstring stretch, lower back flexion stretch and chest stretch.

To help ensure our success:

We must start slow and easy: If we are a seasoned walker, we must keep doing what we are doing. If we have been inactive and tire easily, it is best to start slow and easy. At first, we can walk only as far as or as fast as we find comfortable. If we can walk for only a few minutes, let that be our starting point. For example, we might try short daily sessions of three to five minutes and slowly build up to 15 minutes twice a week. Then, over several weeks’ time, we can gradually work our way up to 30 minutes of walking five days each week.

We must use proper technique to avoid injury and setbacks:
Walking is a great exercise because it is so simple to do. But if our posture is poor or our movements exaggerated, we increase our risk of injury.

We must measure the intensity of our workout: As we walk, we must measure the intensity. Knowing our level allows us to increase the intensity to maximize our workout or slow down to avoid overdoing it.

We have these options:

Talk test: If we are so out of breath that we cannot carry on a conversation with the person we are walking with, we are probably walking too fast and should slow down.

Borg scale: This method is a self-assessment of our perceived exertion. We rate how hard we think we are working on a scale that ranges from 6 (no exertion) to 20 (maximal effort). We may aim for at least moderate intensity (12 to 14) as we walk.

Monitor our heart rate (pulse): To find out if we are exercising within the range of our target heart rate, we must stop exercising to check our pulse manually at our wrist (radial artery) or neck (carotid artery). Another option is to wear an electronic device that displays our heart rate.

We must keep track of our progress:
Keeping a record of how many steps we take, the distance we walk and how long it takes can help us to see where we started from and serve as a source of inspiration. We may just think how good we will feel when we see how many miles we have walked each week, month or year.

We must record these numbers in a walking journal and create for ourselves or log them in a spreadsheet on our computer. Another option is to use an electronic device to calculate time and distance for us.

Options include:-

Pedometers: These devices, which we usually attach to our belt or waistband, detect body motion and count our footsteps, displaying the number of steps on a small screen. Although many pedometers have extra features, such as displaying calories burned and the distance walked or run, we may want to begin by using its primary feature of counting steps.

High-tech devices: Devices that use GPS satellite technology cost more than pedometers do, but they can track the total and current distance we walk, and even calculate our speed or pace. We may have to program these devices. Some allow us to download stored data to our computer as a way of keeping track of our progress. We can wear these high-tech devices on our wrist or attached to our waistband, shoe or arm.

Cool down after each walking session: To reduce stress on our heart and muscles, end each walking session by walking slowly for about five minutes. Then, we can repeat our stretches.

We must stay motivated; Set goals, have fun and stay in the game:

Starting a walking program takes initiative. Sticking with it takes commitment. But when we think of the potential health benefits, it is well worth our effort. Over time we will likely feel more invigorated.

To stay motivated:-

We have to set performance goals: People who stick with a new behavior for six months usually make it a habit.

We must make it fun: If we do not like walking alone, we may invite our spouse, partner, friend or neighbour to join us. We might also join a health club and use a treadmill.

We must vary our routine: We must plan several different walking routes for variety. But if we are walking alone, we must be sure to tell someone which route we are taking. Sometimes things happen to keep us from sticking to a regular walking program. We must not be too hard on ourselves when this happens.
We do not have to let a few days off sabotage our plan to reach a higher level of fitness and improved health.

We must follow these tips to get back in the game:-

We must think positively: We must not let negative self-talk, such as “I’m a failure,” get in the way of starting again. We must shrug it off as a temporary break in our walking program.

We must re-evaluate our goals: If our goal is to walk two hours a day 365 days a year, we might be setting ourselves up to fail. We must set realistic goals for us, such as 30 minutes five days a week.

We must get going: We must build walking into our schedule today. We must just do it. We can walk for 10 minutes on our lunch break.

We must continually plan: If we are taking a trip or working overtime,we must think of strategies for incorporating short walks into our day to keep our plan on track.

We will be glad we started;Better Late than Never:

Even though the first steps of any journey can be the most difficult, it helps to keep our goals foremost in our mind. So we have to remember, once we take that first step, we are on the way to an important destination — “better health”.

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