Walking is an activity that most of us do every day. If you are looking to get in shape, the first thing I would recommend, is to just start walking! Walking is gentle on the body, yet it has many health benefits as well.
If you are thinking about starting a fitness plan, but are intimidated by the skinny runners or big muscle heads at the gym, taking a walk outside is the perfect activity to get you started. It is so easy, it doesn’t cost any money, and you don’t even have to practice!
According the Mayo Clinic, here are some of the biggest benefits you can get from walking:
- Lowering cholesterol levels
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing risk of or managing type 2 diabetes
- Managing your weight
- Improving your mood
- Staying strong and fit
- Reducing risk of heart attack or stroke
If any of those benefits sound good to you, start walking now! Studies have shown that a brisk walk gives you just as many benefits as vigorous exercise like running. Your health may even improve enough to stop taking certain medications. If you have a dog, your furry friend will appreciate the exercise too!
Staying physically active, which can be done through walking, can make you feel better in general. People that get in regular physical activity tend to:
- Have healthier bones, muscles, and joints
- Have less anxiety and depression
- Handle stress better
- Feel more energetic
- Sleep better
- Have improved self-esteem
Since the benefits are endless, you may be wondering how to get started with a walking program. First things first: you need comfortable shoes with good support. This includes arch support, a firm heel, and thick, flexible soles. The sole of your shoe absorbs the shock each time you step, so this is very important. You also need to wear comfortable clothing, which will change with the temperature. Loose fitting, breathable clothes are best, because they allow you to sweat without discomfort. Bright colors are great too so that motorists can easily see you if you are by the road.
Before you start walking, warm up your muscles by moving around a little bit or even walking in place for about five minutes. It is also important to always stretch your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hips. If your walk gets your heart rate up and you are breathing heavier, be sure to finish by cooling down and slowing your pace for about five minutes to lower your heart and breathing rate back to normal. Then stretch those muscles again!
Some tips and tricks before you get started:
- If you are just getting started, take it easy. Only walk as far and as fast as you feel your body can handle. If it is only a few minutes, that is fine! You will be able to work your way up to longer walks. Split it up by walking for 5-10 minutes a few times each day. Once you feel like this isn’t difficult for you anymore, walk longer or faster.
- As you become a regular walker, you may want to start taking your heart rate in order to track how hard you are working. You may even decide to invest in a heart rate monitor!
- Keep a journal of your progress. No matter how far or long you walk, write it down. It will be a great motivation for you to see your progress on paper. A pedometer can be helpful as well. Pedometers track the number of steps you take each day.
- Don’t get discouraged. A regular fitness routine takes commitment. It will be difficult at first, but think about all of the benefits you will receive both physically and mentally. Remind yourself of your goals each day, and be proud of yourself for hitting the road to better health.