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Walking for Fitness

06.12.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

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Becky Johnson, Certified Personal Trainer (ACE); IBNFC Certified Nutrition Coach

A while ago, I talked about running and how to get started but I completely neglected those of you who like to walk for exercise! It’s hard to believe that something you’ve been doing since your first birthday is so good for you, but it's true. Walking is the ideal, low impact, moderate intensity exercise. Just like running, it requires minimal equipment - Just your body and a good pair of properly fitted shoes.

Studies show a regular walking program has many benefits:

1. Lowers blood pressure. Healthy but sedentary volunteers reduced their blood pressure significantly by briskly walking for 30 minutes a day, three days a week, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

2. Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes. People who walked more daily had better insulin sensitivity than those who walked less, according to a 2011 Australian study.

3. Reduces risk of breast cancer. Women who walked briskly for just 1.25-2.5 hours per week were 18% less likely to develop the cancer than those who were sedentary, according to a 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

4. Improves cholesterol. Men who walked briskly for 12 weeks had a lower total cholesterol and higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels than those who didn’t, a 2008 British study published in Preventive Medicine found.

5. Improves body composition. Walking 12 miles a week significantly decreased abdominal, waist, and hip measurements, according to a 2004 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

I could go on and on about studies that have proven that walking is good for you in every aspect from body to mind.

Technique

Do you really know how to walk? We take for granted how our body moves through space and we really don’t pay attention to all the small nuances and techniques that allow us to walk efficiently and properly.

Focus on posture. Keep your head lifted, engage abdominal muscles and relax the shoulders, allowing arms to swing naturally. Don’t overstride (take steps that are too big), which is tempting when you speed up but can hurt shins and feet. Instead, select a comfortable and natural step length. To move faster, pull your back leg forward more quickly.

Select the right pace. Forget about speed at first. Consistency is the most important factor. If your pace feels like a leisurely stroll, you’re moving too slowly. But if you can’t talk or catch your breath, slow down. Just like running, hold your arms at a 90 degree angle and don’t swing your arms across your body. Keep them along the side of your body.

Pick Up The Pace

Add intervals. When you find that you are able to walk for 30-40 minutes with ease, try incorporating intervals into your routine. They’ll increase fat-burning and cardiovascular health benefits.

Hills. Another way to increase intensity is to climb hills. Incline walking strengthens and tones your legs and butt while also building overall endurance and increasing calories burned.

Don’t carry hand weights when walking. Research has shown that they really don’t add much. In fact, incorporating weights in a walking workout can place undue stress on shoulders, elbows and wrists. Try walking with a weighted vest instead, as long as you don’t suffer from joint or foot pain. Or use Nordic walking poles. They can boost the calorie burn of your walk while promoting good posture and muscular endurance.

I have walked in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer for 5 years and have made all the mistakes when it comes to walking. So, I can tell you from experience that proper shoes and proper clothing are a must for any walking program! But great company is a plus to help pass the time and provide a good pace. Take advantage of beautiful weather and go out for a walk!

Stay Fit and Healthy,
Becky

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