For many of us going for a run is a complete turn off. It is high impact and requires stamina to run long distances. If you are just starting a fitness regime towards a healthier lifestyle, walking can be a great first step towards cardiovascular health.
In a recent study over six years, it was found that the same energy used for moderate-intensity walking and high-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and even coronary heart disease. The benefits of taking a stroll on a regular basis are great:
– Maintaining a healthy weight
– Prevent or manage health conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
– Strengthen bones and muscles
– Improve your mood
– Better balance and coordination
– Walking is the single best and safest exercise to maximize your longevity
Try to walk briskly and often, as this will increase the benefits of walking. Make sure your technique is perfect to get the most out of the walk. Head up, shoulders and neck relaxed, swing your arms freely, tighten your stomach muscles to support your back, and roll the feet from heel to toe.
Incorporating regular walks can take some planning. The right gear is essential – if you are comfortable, you are more likely to feel motivated to walk regularly. Get a pair of shoes with correct arch support, and thick flexible soles to cushion your feet. Wear comfortable clothes appropriate for the conditions, whether you are walking on a treadmill or outdoors. Choose a path appropriate for your mobility – paths with many cracked sidewalks or uneven turf are not ideal for those with weak joints and lower mobility. Find a lower impact route instead, such as a park with paved pathways or even a shopping mall. Always remember to warm up, walking slowly for 5-10 minutes to prepare your body for the exercise ahead. It is also important to cool down for 5-10 minutes at the end of your walk to help your muscles, in particular your heart, cool down. Don’t forget to gently stretch your muscles. You can do this after you warm up, or after the cool down.
Remember you don’t have to walk alone. It can be fun to have a walking partner to keep you company and moving towards your goals together. It will make your exercise routine more of a social outing rather than a chore. You can even walk with your pets to keep you motivated. To help incorporate walking into your daily routine, park further away from work or the stores while running errands. To help you keep track of your goals, investing in a step counter or a fitness wearable can let you know how you’re improving.
Walking is a great alternative to running for those with past injuries that require minimal impact exercises. If you have been injured before, be sure to consult your physician before recommencing any activity. It is also a great lead into a jogging or running routine for those just starting out. All it takes is 150 minutes a week or about 25 minutes a day of brisk walking to improve you heart health, so get stepping!