Of all the exercise programs, walking is somehow the simplest and cheapest. Walking can also be one of the most effective exercise programs because walking is an exercise that many of us enjoy and will actually take time out of our busy days to do.
Walking results in the same benefits of many other types of physical exercise: It helps strengthen the heart and lungs, improves circulation, increases your confidence, reduces the risk of certain diseases, strengthens the bones, improves muscle tone, and just generally brightens your mood .
Walking works for weight loss, but you'll need to make sure you're walking long enough (or fast enough) to burn some calories.
When you are just starting your walking regimen, many experts recommend focusing on distance before you focus on speed. If you get too much up on your intensity, you may burn out before you have established your walking routine on a daily basis.
You can burn roughly the same number of calories with a short, fast walk as with a long, slower walk. The largest factor in your overall success will be your consistency. Make sure that you choose the right combination of pace and intensity that keeps the exercise fun for you. There will be some days that you want to take a long stroll. Others, you may want to power walk, burn some energy, and really get your heart pumping.
Most walking fitness experts recommend that you have some sort of activity each day. You can alternate your sessions of higher-intensity power walking with lower-intensity workouts. Just make sure you're getting out there at least 5 days a week, for 30 to 60 minutes at a time.
If you can not walk for 30 minutes when you are just starting out, start small and work your way up. It will not take long before you are walking for longer distances, especially if you make a goal to walk almost every day.
For maximum health benefits, you will also want to make sure that you are walking fast enough to increase your heart rate. Fitness experts say that, for weight loss, you need to be walking for 30 to 60 minutes at 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Of course, you'll need to stretch first and walk slowly for five minutes before and after the workout.
You can also try interval training, in which you walk quickly for a few minutes, and then slow it down for a few minutes. Alternating between higher- and lower-intensity periods through your workout can get your heart pumping and help you to quickly build physical endurance.
Once you have established your walking routine, you can burn even more calories by choosing a route with challenging hills or by strapping small weights to your wrists or ankles. There are also several techniques that will help you build muscle tone as you walk. Concentrate on keeping a good post, for example, flex your leg muscles and hold in your stomach. Focusing on good walking techniques such as these can help you maximize the time you spend in your walking shoes.
Make it Fun
Here are few ideas to help you make walking a fun adventure that you will look forward to each day:
Make sure you are comfortable and hydrated. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes, which will increase your comfort and reduce your risk of injury. And drink water before, during, and after your walking workout.
Search out new walking or hiking trails in your town or county.
Check out books on tape from the library or download an mp3 to enjoy on your headphones while you are walking.
Schedule your walk like any other event in your busy day. Put it on your calendar and regard it as an important appointment.
Find a friend to be your walking partner. Your friend will hold you accountable and may make the fees seem to pass more quickly. Sometimes, when we get very busy, our friends can become neglected. When you walk with a friend, you carve out time for physical fitness and your friendship.
If you have small children, take them out in the stroller. Older kids can walk alongside you. My young son likes to ride his bike alongside me.
Take a dog. When I take my dog along, I feel as though I'm doing something constructive with my time. If you do not have a dog, see if there is an animal shelter in your area that needs volunteer dog walkers. This is a great way to serve a greater purpose and get in your daily walk at the same time.
Here are a few considerations to help you stay safe during your daily walks.
Walking with a friend (or even a dog) is safer than walking alone.
Tell someone when you are leaving, where you are going, and when you expect to return.
Do not bring valuables with you on your walk.
Vary your route.
Stay in well-lit, busy areas.
Stay alert. Keep your headphones on a low setting so you can still hear what's going on around you.
A walking routine is a great way to enjoy all the benefits of regular physical exercise. Enjoy creating an exercise program that will be part of your life for a long time to come.
Note: The tips in this article are for general information only. Before starting any exercise routine, you should consult with your doctor.