There are tons of exercise options out there, but simple walking works incredibly well for most individuals. Beyond a good pair of supportive shoes, walking requires no special equipment, and it is appropriate for individuals of almost all fitness levels. You can walk solo or with a friend – you can even bring your dog along. And if you dress for the weather (or have access to an indoor walking venue), you can enjoy a good walk during any season of the year.
The Benefits of Regular Walking
According to the Mayo Clinic, a brisk, daily walk will help you achieve the following.
A Healthy Weight: Walking at a brisk pace burns calories and tones muscles.
Illness Prevention: Studies show that individuals who engage in daily walks reduce their risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
An Improved Mood: Regular exercise (such as walking) causes your brain to release endorphins, so your mood is lifted naturally.
Better Balance and Coordination: Regular walks (and other types of physical exercise) keep muscles and bones coordinated. This is especially helpful to seniors who become more susceptible to falls as they age.
How to Set Yourself Up for Success in Your Walking Routine
If you have not engaged in physical activity for a while, it is a good idea to start out slowly. The experts at the Mayo clinic recommend 30 minutes of exercise per day. Then, as you get stronger, you may choose to increase this time. In addition, you should consider the following.
Getting the Right Gear: Again, you should look for walking shoes that are comfortable and supportive. You should also wear comfortable clothing that moves with you. And, if you plan on walking at night or in the early mornings, wear brightly colored clothing or items that include reflective pieces.
Choosing the Right Course: If you walk outside, it is important to choose a relatively smooth route that is free of sidewalk cracks, potholes, and other obstacles that may lead to injury. Or, if you prefer to walk indoors, look for community fitness centers (like the YMCA) or malls that are friendly to walking enthusiasts.
Warming Up, Cooling Down, and Stretching: Keep your muscles and joints safe by starting out slowly (the warming up period) before breaking into your full stride. You should also stretch before and after your walk, and never end your exercise abruptly. Instead, when you are nearly finished with your walk, gradually slow down to your original, slower pace (the cooling down period).
Finally, as always, please check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program, especially if you have existing illnesses or medical conditions.