Walking is perhaps the easiest way to take care of your health. With just 30 minutes of walking on a daily basis, most people can improve cardiovascular fitness, reduce excess body fat, strengthen bones and enhance muscle power.
And for others who may be predispositioned to certain health conditions, walking can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and even some cancers.
Having said that, ‘easiest’ does not only imply to health benefits catered by walking. Instead it also happens to be a free-of-cost way of improving health. There are no expensive price tags attached to walking, the practice doesn’t demand rigorous training and can be done without the use of any special equipment.
Plus, it is a low impact exercise that is not bound by time constraints. You can go out for a walk whenever you feel like it even though there are some suggestions regarding more suitable timings for walking for weight loss. But that comes later.
For now, know that walking is a highly recommended form of physical activity for people who are overweight, elderly and even those who haven’t worked out in a while. If you fall in any of these categories, please do continue reading to find out what walking can do for you. If you are a healthy individual who works out regularly, you can still find something useful here and fit a walking regimen into your usual workout routine to optimize the benefits.
How to get started?
Nothing technical here, just a few ideas to get you going. Some you might’ve thought of yourself already, others can come in handy as useful suggestions to make the walk a more comfortable experience.
Since walking is not exactly rocket science, don’t be too hard on yourself when you first decide to walk. Take baby steps and work your way up. Simple suggestions to get started are discussed below:
- Consult a physician
Before starting a walking routine it is better that you see your doctor. Walking is not unhealthy for your body at all. However, sometimes joint pains and cardiovascular diseases get worse with exertion. Even during the walk keep a lookout for danger signs like chest pain, constricted breathing etc.
- Buy appropriate gear
Your shoes are the most important factor in a smooth walk. Buy shoes that comfortable, light and relatively flat. The soles of the shoes should be soft and the heels a bit firm. Buy one size larger than your usual shoes as your feet tend to swell after exercise.
Wear clothes that have moisture absorbing qualities to keep you dry and chafe-free. Also, put on some socks to protect the feet from blisters and unnecessary friction.
- Assign a specific time
You need to assign a specific time of the day to your workout. This will make sure that you walk daily without interruptions. Try to devise your workout in accordance with your normal routine so that it can be easily incorporated without any inconvenience.
- Plan your route
After deciding the time of your workout, plan the route as well. You can have a nearby park where you want to walk daily. You may want to walk back home from the office.
Planning where you will be walking beforehand will ensure that you will finish your workout. Any ambiguities can demotivate you. However, do not stick to only one route. This will make your workout boring and less exciting.
- Keep a journal
Keep a journal about your daily exercise. Write about the time and speed of your walk. Describe your feelings during the walk. Keep track of your weekly weight.
Documenting your progress will motivate you. It will also help in developing a habit. Once you reach a week or a fortnight you would want to fill the journal to the end. Looking at how far you have come will give you a feeling of accomplishment.
- Have a support system
You can have a walking buddy. This way you will have someone to look forward to when you go for a walk. Even if you feel down your partner will be there to cheer you up and get you going. Your walk will become more pleasant and will feel less like a workout.
If you cannot find someone to walk with, join an online forum. Connecting with other people keeps a person focused and active. Listening to the struggles of your group fellows makes you realize that you are not alone. This keeps you from quitting.
- Get fancy
Download a workout app on your phone. It can connect you with your friends. It can also help you keep track of your walk. You can measure the speed of your walk as well.
Buy a pedometer to count the number of steps you take each day. Wear your favorite workout outfit to feel good.
Develop a fun playlist for your walk. Motivating songs and upbeat melodies can make your walk enjoyable and amusing.
- Break your walk into intervals
If you find walking for one long spell very challenging you can break your walk into smaller sessions. A 20-minute walk can be broken into two 10-minutes sessions or four 5-minute sessions.
Dividing the sessions will not decrease the effectiveness of your walk. It will also make it easier to fulfill your daily walk goals.
- Frequency per week
Walking is not a very intense exercise. Therefore, most people are able to walk daily. However, a beginner should start with 3 days per week and increase the number of days to 5 or 6 later on.
Also, do not underestimate the importance of rest. Give yourself a day or two to recover and rejuvenate.
- Walk whenever you can
Apart from your daily workout, add as much walking into your routine as you can. Walk to your grocery shop. Park your car farther than your office. Take stairs instead of lifts.
These simple changes will build your stamina and increase your progress during the walk.
- Vary the terrain
Try to add a few uphill walk into your routine as well. Go for a hike or walk on the beach every weekend. Not only will it make your exercise less monotonous but it will also build more endurance.
- Treat soreness and pain
Stock up on simple medicines and treatments for small injuries at home before starting your walk.
Apply petroleum jelly or other ointments on parts of the body that are likely to rub against your clothes. These areas include thighs, neck, arms, skin under your bra etc. Treat blisters with ointments as well.
After any workout, a person is bound to feel a bit sore. For ordinary muscle aches that improve with movement, apply ice packs. If the pain hampers your movement and stability in any way it is better to skip the workout for one day.
If the stiffness and ache do not subside even after a few days’ rest, see a doctor.
Simple walking exercises
Choose the easiest way you can incorporate walking into your routine. It can be based on time or distance covered.
If you are a complete beginner, start with ten minutes of walking for the first week. When you get used to it, add five more minutes in the next week. This will gradually increase your stamina and decrease the chances of injury.
Don’t worry about your speed in the beginning. Once you get used to walking regularly, your pace will increase automatically. For weight loss, a person should walk for at least 60 minutes five days a week at a brisk pace (you get breathless and are unable to talk while walking). Slowly increase your walk up to this level.
For the more adventurous, you can start off with a 1-mile walk as well. Walk for a mile anywhere you want three to four times a week. Once you build enough endurance, add half a mile to your walk in the successive week. You can gradually increase the distance walked based on your strength and ease of walking.
As mentioned earlier, the pace of your walk does not matter in the beginning. Once your body gets accustomed to the daily walk you can try to complete the same distance in a shorter amount of time.