If you have two working legs, walking is one of the easiest and safest exercises you can do. You don’t need any fancy equipment or special training. All you need is a supportive, comfortable pair of shoes. Walking is also one of those exercises you can do pretty much anywhere and for any amount of time. Because of this, fitting 30 minutes of exercise into your busy schedule should be easy with walking because if needed, you can break up the time into two 15-minute sessions or even three 10-minute increments.
While you’ll need to lift weights to grow your strength and will need to watch your diet for maximum health, you can walk your way to better health. Not only is it easy, but walking is a sure way to lose weight, boost your mood, increase bone and muscle strength, lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and reduce your risk of or help to manage type 2 diabetes. In addition, walking is a low impact exercise that’s easy on your joints.
To get the maximum benefit from walking and to avoid potential injury, here is what you need to know.
Yes, walking is something you do all the time. But are you doing it right? Technique is important when it comes walking. From your head to your toes, this is how you should walk.
Head: Keep your head level and in line with the rest of your body. Avoid tilting your head down as this will strain your neck and shoulders.
Eyes: Focus your gaze 10 to 20 feet ahead of where you are. If you need to look down to see where you’re stepping, lower your eyes - not your head.
Shoulders: Your shoulders should stay relaxed and level with your body.
Arms: With each step, your arms should swing in a natural movement back and forth, not side to side. Keep them close to your body and bent at about 90 degrees. If your arms are kept straight they may begin to swell, tingle, or feel numb. By bending your arms, you’ll burn more calories; strengthen and tone your biceps, deltoids, and triceps; and move faster.
Hands: Leave your hands loosely closed, but relaxed. As your arms swing forward, your hands should stay below the middle of your chest and then by the back of your hips as they swing back. Too much movement and you’ll do nothing but waste energy.
Abs: Contract your abs while walking for added support and a greater workout.
Legs: Rotate your hip forward as your leg moves forward. Focus on moving your legs from the hip rather than the knee.
Feet: Land each step on your heel straight in front of your body. As you take your next step, your foot will roll forward to the toes. The stronger your toes push you off, the more momentum and power you’ll have in your stride.
To avoid injury and to get the most benefit from your walk, start off walking slowly for five minutes to get your muscles warmed up. After your warm-up, take a couple minutes to stretch your muscles. Make sure to stretch your calves, hamstrings (the back of your thighs), quadriceps (the front of your thighs), and your sides. Following your stretches, you’re ready to go.
Walk as long as time or strength allows. If you’re a beginner, walk only as fast and far as is comfortable. Each session you’ll be able to walk further and faster. End each session with a cool down period. Walk slowly again for approximately five minutes to reduce the stress on your muscles and heart. Finally, repeat your stretches.
Before you begin your walking routine, set attainable goals for distance, length of time, weight loss, and speed. Then track your progress. Make walking enjoyable by going with a friend or walking in a beautiful location. You won’t be disappointed!