There are so many reasons walking is good for you that it is virtually impossible to talk about it this article. But, I will try my best. Let us first learn about some interesting facts about walking:
- Every step you take uses up to 200 muscles.
- If you swing your arms when you walk, it increases the effort of walking up to 12 percent.
- Walking uphill increases cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone.
- It takes approximately one hour and forty-three minutes to walk off 540 calories, which happens to be the caloric count of a Big Mac. If your meal included a super-size Coke and French fries, you need to walk seven hours to burn the calories.
- If you’re trying to improve your health, experts suggest walking 6,000 steps per day. If you’re trying to lose weight, walk a total of 10,000 steps to get the job done.
Table of Contents
Benefits of Walking
Walking every day is one of the easiest and healthiest things you can do for your body. It costs nothing to take a walk. You can do it anywhere, during any season and in any weather.
Although walking is not going to build muscle, it does help you burn fat. You may gain some leg muscle because it gives your calves and your thighs quite a workout. It also helps your glutes. Compared to more high-impact exercises such as running, walking is also very gentle on people with arthritis. It’s relatively easy exercise to start for people whose BMI is greater than 35 or who have arthritis of knee and ankle.
Walking at a continuous pace not only boosts your energy level but also reduces your weight. Studies indicate the people who are most successful in keeping weight off are those who participate in frequent physical activities. Walking should be aimed at a particular distance or duration covered to maintain the proper health and control weight. One of the most important things to remember is balance. Overdoing any form of exercise is dangerous. Start slow and gradually build up to a longer regimen.
Walking is one of the best exercises to control weight and to burn excess calories if good methods of walking are practiced.
Studies show that walking regularly lowers your risk of both heart disease and stroke. Walking gets your heart rate up and causes your body to burn calories. This, in turn, lowers your cholesterol level.
According to The Stroke Association, walking for half an hour every day helps to keep your blood pressure in check and reduces your risk of stroke by up to 27 percent. Walking gives your circulation a boost and helps to increase the levels of oxygen in your blood. This actually leads to feeling more energetic after a short (brisk) walk
It is always necessary to maintain a good walking style to get the maximum benefits of this exercise and at the same time minimizing any health risk. The following walking styles should be maintained for obtaining the benefits.
- Try to be as straight as possible including back while walking.
- Your arms should be swinging in front and back straight at a maximum angle of 90-degree centigrade with the body.
- Take more steps per minute instead of taking longer steps.
- Walking should be maintained in a straight line as possible and try to keep your foot very close.
- Try to breathe deeply.
- You should start walking slowly in initial days and should increase the speed and miles gradually as you proceed, keeping in mind your body’s response to these exercises.
Essential Tools and Gears for Walking
When it comes to walking shoes, the most important thing to keep in mind is comfort. Try to leave about 1/2 inch between the tip of your toes and the end of the shoe. Here a few more things to keep in mind as you select your hiking footwear:
- Get a shoe that is both lightweight and breathable. The heavier shoe may cause ankle or joint pain when walked for an extended period of time.
- Make sure that the sole of the shoe is flexible enough that it can bend easily at the ball of the foot. Your foot needs to be able to lead with your heel, then roll to the ball of your foot. A thick sole will always get in the way of this.
- Break in the new shoe by wearing them around the house for a few days. The last thing you want to do is limp home the first time you “officially” go walking in them.
When it comes to walking outdoors, the best clothes to wear varies greatly depending on the location and climate. It’s generally best to avoid darker colors, because they absorb the heat of sunlight. If you’ll be walking near a road or street, consider wearing a reflective vest or patches to ensure that drivers of passing cars will see you when it gets dark.
While cotton is a very common material, it may not be the best choice for hiking clothes. When cotton gets wet, it becomes a poor insulator and is not good at trapping body heat. This means you’ll feel much colder and face a higher risk of hypothermia. Instead, try to find clothing dry faster.
Don’t forget to look for the right socks when you put your hiking outfit together. Socks that are made for hiking tend to provide more cushioning than typical cotton tube socks. They also tend to breathe better, which cuts down on sweat and leaves you more comfortable during long walks.
Backpack and Bags
Whether you’re hiking down trails or through an urban setting, you need something to carry all your gear in. If you don’t plan to take much with you, a smaller belt pouch or messenger bag will usually do the trick. But, if you’re planning a longer hike, it’s best to carry a backpack. While a school-style book bag holds plenty of supplies, a hiking bag is the recommended choice. Among other things, it’s designed with better storage capabilities and added comfort in mind.
Even if your bag doesn’t seem too heavy at first, carrying it for prolonged periods can really wear out your back, arms and shoulders. If you’re walking with a heavy load, make sure you take frequent breaks to give your shoulders a rest. If you’re carrying a messenger bag that only goes over one shoulder, switch sides frequently so that both sides of your body share the burden.
GPS and Navigation
In this day and age, many people already carry a GPS with them at all times – their phones or wearable devices. Even a basic navigation app, such as Google Maps, can be indispensable – both walking around the neighborhood and through the woods. Provided your cell phone has service, determining the best path to your destination can be as simple as a single tap. However, for routes that take you deep into nature, it may be best to travel with an actual GPS. A device designed for hiking typically has a much longer battery life than most smartphones, especially if you use your phone to play music on the trail.
Not only can a smartphone act as a guide with the proper GPS app, but many other apps also offer other useful services to hikers. There are also many apps that are geared toward walkers and joggers. They have GPS trackers, calorie counter, route planner, and step counter all in one. In addition to tracking your progress on each walk, they can allow you to share your progress with your friends for a healthy competition. This brings a social aspect to your walks without the need to locate a walking group in your area. Here are some of those apps:
- MapMyWalk. It is available for iOS or Android. It is also available on Apple Watch, Android Wear, and Samsung Gear. It not only tracks walks but also know your distance, pace, calorie burn, elevation, and more.
- Fitbit App Mobile Tracker (no Fitbit Required). The free app can be used to track your walking workouts with GPS as well as your all-day steps using the motion sensor on your phone. It is available for iOS or Android.
- TrailLink. It is available for iOS or Android. This is the ultimate trail-finder app for all outdoor enthusiasts. Enjoy full-length trail descriptions, reviews, photos, and detailed trail maps not found anywhere else!
Food and Drink
Whenever you go out for a walk, be sure to bring plenty of water with you. If you don’t stay hydrated, you can end up suffering from the effects of fatigue or even heat exhaustion. While any water bottle will do, there is a variety of bottles designed with hiking in mind that are durable and lightweight. If you’re planning a trip that’s going to last more than a day, it’s probably a good idea to pack a water filter or water purification tablets too.
As far as food goes, you want to pack non-perishables that won’t weigh you down. This is especially true with longer walking excursions. Experienced hikers recommend eating lots of carbohydrates and proteins, which provide fast energy and keeps muscles healthy. Dehydrated foods are ideal because they are easier to carry. Remember, what you bring along with you can vary greatly from one walk to the next. If you’re taking a walk through your neighborhood, you won’t need much more than a good pair of shoes and a bottle of water. But, it doesn’t hurt to think about the addition of walking-related accessories. Choose from a variety of different fitness tools to help you get the most out of your walking workout. For example, weights and resistance bands are popular choices. Both are user-friendly and won’t break the bank.
If you live in an urban or suburban area, your best bet for a free walking route is likely the sidewalk or shoulder along the streets of your town. It’s crucial when walking near traffic to always be aware of your surroundings.
If there’s sidewalk available along your route, make it your first choice. Only walk along the shoulder of the road when there is no other alternative. If you must travel along the shoulder, make sure you walk facing traffic. That way, you can see cars approaching you and have time to react should any of the drivers not be paying attention.
Make sure you apply sunscreen before you set out on your journey, and bring extra along in case you need to reapply it. It doesn’t take long for sunburn to develop. You’ll definitely regret it the next day if it does.
Believe it or not, even on a cloudy day, as much as 80 percent of the sun’s UV radiation makes it through our atmosphere. That being said, look for a sport sunscreen, or at least one that’s sweat resistant. Pay close attention to how often the label indicates you need to apply the product and follow the instructions to a tee. Stinging or biting insects are a common problem along the trails, especially in the seasons that bring on great hiking weather. The best way to keep the bugs at bay is to use insect repellent, whether it’s an aerosol spray or lotion. It’s important to bring along enough insect repellent for everybody, especially if you’ll still be hiking at dusk.
Track Your Progress
When you’re walking for the sake of fitness, it’s important to keep track of when and how far you walk. If you don’t keep track of your progress, it can be difficult to plan out an effective walking schedule for the future. One of the best tools you can use to keep track of your walks is a walking journal or a calendar or use an app. With either (or even both) of these, you can easily take note of how far you walk every day.
Sticking to Your Walking Routine
Once you start following the routine you’ve established, it can be easy to slack off if you’re not careful. If you let yourself slip or decide to “take it easy” for a day, it can eventually lead to you dropping the walking routine altogether. Here are a couple of ways you can keep your walking routine engaging and fun:
- Set Goals. Establishing goals for yourself is a sure way to get the most out of any activity. Goals help you to structure your time and effort. They also give you something to work toward, which provides you with reason to push yourself. Achieving your goals also makes you feel accomplished, which leads to a boost to your self-esteem.
It’s best to start out small. For many new walkers, this means planning to walk for around fifteen to twenty minutes. While this may not seem like much walking, remember that it’s important to set goals that aren’t too hard to accomplish. If, once you go on your walk, twenty minutes doesn’t seem like enough, feel free to start out with a longer walk next time.
Once you have determined a reasonable distance goal, and you’ve managed to achieve it with each of your walks, it’s important to step it up. Of course, how exactly you add to your workout is up to you. But, if you add some time to each workout at regular intervals, you can expand on the fitness progress you’re already making.
Once your goals are established, backing down from your walking routine will be like breaking a promise to yourself. Keep track of how many days you can successfully follow your routine. This will give you that extra drive to get out and walk. If you’re thinking about skipping a day, you’ll have to reset your count.
- Mix It Up. One reason you may find yourself straying from your walking routine is that doing the same thing day after day can become tedious. While this is true, there’s no reason that your walk has to be the same every day. Turning each walk into a different experience can be as easy as walking in a different direction. If you plan on walking around your neighborhood, use a street map to plan out several different routes of the same length. Try different walking trails. Find out about trails in your area by using the TrailLink app (discusses above).
- Make Walking Fun. Consider one, two, or all three of the following ideas to make walking fun. The first one is utilizing a free app such as Charity Miles, to help others. This app keeps track of the distance you walk and donates 25 cents per mile to one of several charities. Charities include Autism Speaks, Habitat for Humanity, and Pencils of Promise. Obviously, the more you walk, the more the charity benefits. The second option is Geocaching, which has been around for quite some time. In the event you’ve never heard of it, think of it as a high-tech treasure hunt of sorts. In simple terms, you pick a local geocache that sounds like something you’d love to find and use any GPS-enabled device (think cell phone) to locate it. You can easily download the official app and learn all about it at geocaching.com. The third option is to invite a friend to join you for a walk in the park or walk with your pet.
Make a simple program for walking.
- Start with a few minutes in initial days and gradually increase the duration.
- For achieving effective results of the walking you should continue walking for a minimum of 30 minutes daily or at least 5 to 6 days of a week.
- If your conditions allow you to walk briskly, walk as much as you can. In case you observe any symptoms of breathlessness, vomiting, dizziness, or any unusual symptoms, you should contact your doctor.
- Before walking, do exercise for stretching of the body parts such as arms, head, shoulder, ankles, stomach, back, etc, for a few minutes.
- If you get tired during walking, you should gradually slow down your speed.
- Too much of brisk walk can cause breathlessness in some of the people.
- You should adhere to your walking schedule daily and try to convert your walk in three time zones, first slow walking for 4-5 minutes, second brisk walking, and third slow walking for 4-5 minutes.
- The first and third time zones are for a warm-up and cool-down zones. Brisk walking should be gradually increased from 4-5 minutes in the initial week to 25-30 minutes after 8-10 weeks.
If you don’t want to walk alone, chances are a friend or family member will be willing to accompany you. Not only will you both benefit from the exercise, it’s also a great way to catch up on gossip or just life in general after a hectic day. Not to mention there’s safety in numbers.
Remember, walking as a wonderful family activity. Getting everyone involved is probably easier than you think. It’s the perfect time to spend quality time together. In addition, it’s never too early to start thinking about good health. You can almost guarantee that if they start exercising early, your kids will thank you for getting them involved when they get older.
Honestly, there’s absolutely no better time than now to dust off your walking shoes and hit the trail, sidewalk or even your driveway. Everyone has to start somewhere. You won’t know if you find it enjoyable until you try.