Glorious Spring is here! Doesn’t the improved weather make you want to get right out there and start walking? But were you inert over the winter? The first step toward improving your fitness is turning off the TV and getting off the couch. The easiest way to begin your fitness regime is to start walking.
Walking For Fitness
We are not talking about a stroll through the park, but walking for aerobic benefit. This involves working your muscles and increasing your heart and breathing rate. Walking may seem like a “no brainer”. You have been walking since you were a year old. But your body changes as you age, changing gait and balance. There is more to walking than just putting one foot in front of the other. Posture plays an important role. Hold your head up, look forward, pull back your shoulders, and suck in that gut. Think of a puppet string at the top of your head pulling you up taller. When you are all rounded over it hurts your neck and squishes your internal organs. And that’s not good for breathing or digestion. If you think you may fall, don’t look directly at your feet but look at a point about 3 to 4 feet in front of you. That way you can anticipate the cracks in the sidewalk or the rock in the middle of the path.
Improving Strength and Endurance
Are you walking already and nothing seems to improve? Shaking up your routine will make a big difference in your quest to be stronger. Changing your route around can challenge your muscles to work harder. If you walk the same loop each day, it can be as easy as walking in the opposite direction. If you also bike, alternate days of walking and biking. Once a week do a longer walk than your usual 2 to 3 miles. As you get stronger try some “intervals”. Walk quickly for a few telephone pole lengths. Picking up the pace will help you to get stronger over time. It’s also a good way to start running, if that is your goal. Start with walking and then add jogging a few telephone pole intervals. Finally you are able to take off running with Chariots of Fire playing in your mind.
A caution about distracted walking. I’ve notice more and more individuals walking while read texts, surfing the net, talking on the phone, or have headphones with music so loud you can hear it 20 feet away. Distracted walking is a health hazard! If you can’t hear or see the car coming as you cross the road, you won’t realize danger is approaching. And it’s not just about safety. Enjoy your walk. Concentrate on your breathing, pace, and where you are stepping. Decompress and gain relaxation as well as fitness from walking. Listen to the sounds of the birds or children playing. There is nothing more infections than the laugh and giggle of a child.
Ellen Lang, RN, MPH
Advice is not meant as a substitute for medical advice. Contact your healthcare provider before embarking on a new exercise program or diet plan.