Fitness can be a walk in the park!
Walking is one of the easiest and safest ways to get more exercise every day. Chances are, since you've been walking most of your life, you're likely an expert at it already! You won't need any special equipment or lessons – just a good pair of walking shoes – and walking is a natural movement that's virtually injury free. Best of all, it's an activity you can enjoy by yourself or with friends and family. You can even join a walking group and start making new friends while you get fit!
As long as you have the desire to be more active, the rest can be easy! Here's a checklist of what you'll need to get your walking program off on the right foot:
- a good pair of shoes.
- comfortable, loose-fitting clothing (remember to dress for the weather).
- a safe place to walk (check it out first).
- a watch to time yourself (optional).
- a walking plan that suits your lifestyle.
Comfortable, well-fitting shoes can be the key to an enjoyable walking program. Follow these simple guidelines to choose the best shoe for you.
- leather is best because it breathes and molds to fit your foot
- soles should be strong and flexible with good grip
- insoles should be cushioned to absorb forces
How the Shoe Fits
- must be comfortable right away, without a 'break-in' or stretching period
- always buy for your biggest foot
- shop later in the afternoon, when your feet are at their largest
- toe box should be roomy so that you can wiggle your toes
- your forefoot should not be wider than your shoe (don't buy too narrow)
- the heel should fit snugly and the instep should not gape open
- try on a variety of shoes, walk around the store to ensure they fit properly
Design a Plan
Keep in mind that the very nature of starting an exercise program means making some adjustments to your lifestyle, but the results will be well worth the effort. To make things easier, try to determine the best times for you to 'get away' and schedule your walks accordingly. Start small and don't worry about your long-term goals. Just do what you can given your daily commitments to family, work, and community. And be patient – it takes time for a lifestyle change to become a habit, but it will happen.
Start by making a commitment to walk 3 times per week. Once you have successfully reached this goal, set a new goal to gradually make walking part of your everyday routine.
Five Steps To A Great Walk
- Warm up by walking slowly for 5 minutes.
- Stretch after warming up to help prevent injury.
- Walk briskly using proper technique.
- Cool down by walking slowly again for 5 minutes.
- Stretch afterward to help prevent stiffness.
Other Tips To Keep You Going
- Add variety by changing your route.
- Take a personal radio, cassette or CD player to listen to.
- Dress in layers so that you can adjust for weather conditions.
- Walk inside if the weather is bad (too hot, too cold, too wet, too icy).
- Wear a hat and sunscreen in the summer.
- Carry a water bottle.
Building On Your Walking Program
- Record on a calendar how long you walked and the approximate distance. This will help to remind you to get at least 3 days in per week and maintain your progress.
- Join a walking club in your community.
- Plan to participate in a fun walk such as 'Beat Beethoven', 'Terry Fox Run' or 'Mother-Daughter Walk'.
- Organize a fun walk at your office to raise funds for a charitable cause.
- Make active living a part of your family life by involving your spouse, children and friends.
- Try and add a variety of physical activities to your lifestyle such as: biking, swimming, dancing, weight training, fitness classes, Tai Chi, bowling or gardening.
- Learn more about being physically active by taking a workshop such as on the benefits of exercise, or on maintaining a healthy body weight.
- If you need extra help with your walking program, or want to pursue new fitness activities, talk to a fitness consultant.
Suggestions For Increasing Difficulty
- Add timed intervals of moderate-fast pace (i.e. 30 seconds fast - 1 minute moderate)
- As you become stronger take fewer breaks
- Increase the time of your brisk walk past 30 minutes provided you have the extra time
- Find a route that has a hill.