Beyond a doubt one of the best forms of exercise known to man is walking. While it’s as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, there are several things to keep in mind if you want to make your walking workout as safe and effective as possible.
First, you’ve got to have the right shoes. Dress shoes are out of the question. Tennis shoes and basketball shoes are too stiff and hinder the heel-to-toe flexibility required for walking. When shopping for a shoe, go with a well- padded heel that’s light, breathable and water resistant. A running shoe or cross trainer might work as well as an expensive walk-specific model. In any case, keep your shoes snugly laced up, but comfortably enough to give your toes some wiggle room.
Second, stay safe and focused. You might prefer to escape into your favorite tunes or podcast, or you may want to stay connected by staring at your phone while walking, but this can lead to trouble. According to one source, pedestrian injuries have doubled since 2005, and with most walkers by as high as 60% due to distractions from phones or something else. It’s healthy and necessary to disconnect sometimes! Focus upon your breathing, pay attention to your gait and be mindful of where you’re going while you’re walking. Keep good posture, pick up your pace now and then and don’t slouch.
Third, change your route on a regular basis. Switching things up a bit is great for your mood and motivation. Add some inclines, declines and steep hills into your routine to increase intensity and strengthen thigh, hamstring and butt muscles. If you get lonely from time to time, invite a friend along; walk your dog or your neighbor’s dog; start a walking group with like-minded folks.
Fourth, don’t set out unprepared. Besides wearing proper shoes, put on loose, comfortable clothes that are breathable, so that you can move freely. You can remove layers as you warm up, or add them if it gets cold. Never forget sunglasses, a hat, and adequate sunscreen to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays even when it’s cloudy outside. Stay hydrated with water; you don’ need the extra sugar and electrolytes found in most expensive sport’s drinks. Special note: if you’re walking late at night or before it gets light in the morning, make sure to wear bright colors and reflective fabrics that’ll help drivers to see you.
Finally, keep track of your progress. Counting steps, miles and minutes is an important way for you to see whether you are meeting your exercise goals. Recent studies suggest that walkers who tracked their steps increased them by about 30% as opposed to those who didn’t. That added up to 2500 steps a day and tons of calories burned! You can track your steps with an app on your phone or with an inexpensive device called a pedometer.