Walking is the simplest, most accessible form of exercise and should be within everyone’s capabilities. Walking is low impact, requires minimal equipment, can be done at any time of day or night and can be performed at your own pace. You can get out and walk without worrying about the risks associated with some more vigorous forms of exercise. Walking is also a great form of physical activity for people who are overweight, elderly, or who haven’t exercised in a long time. If you have any concerns or a pre-existing medical condition, please check with your Doctor before embarking on your new exercise regime.
No special equipment is required and walking is free with many added health and wellbeing benefits. If you haven’t exercised for a while start off with a simple 30 minute walk around your neighbourhood and build up from there. You will improve or maintain your overall health by increasing your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your bones, reduce excess body fat and tone your body among other health benefits. Your risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some forms of cancer will be reduced.
Irrespective of how busy we think our lives are or whether we think we don’t have time to include exercise into our schedules, everyone should be able to fit a 30 minute walk into their schedule. You should walk at a “brisk” pace which means you can still talk but will not be breathless.
I rode my bike to my local nail technician a couple of weeks ago and my technician was talking to me about exercise. The lady next to me was morbidly obese and said to me I was lucky that I could exercise and she expressed she didn’t know where to start. I suggested she start off by walking around her neighbourhood block for example with a 10 to 15 minute walk morning and afternoon and build up from there. We only fail if we don’t try and continue to make excuses for maintaining the status quo. I am uncertain whether or not she took it on board as she made a number of excuses as to why she couldn’t start.
We are fortunate in Australia to have access to numerous nature reserves, bushland, beaches, rivers and parks to walk in and our suburban areas have good footpaths to walk on.
Whilst 30 minutes of exercise will maintain and improve your overall fitness, you need to exercise for longer if your aim is to lose weight and keep it off.
Walking for fun and fitness isn’t limited to strolling by yourself around local neighbourhood streets. There are various clubs, venues and strategies you can use to make walking an enjoyable and social part of your lifestyle. It is amazing how quickly the kilometres build up if you are walking with a friend or group of friends. My girlfriend Jill and I have been known to walk up to 12 kilometres each way to go out to dinner.
There are numerous applications on modern mobiles to measure distance covered, calories burned etc. that encourage and motivate people in their exercise endeavours. It is a good idea to have a pedometer to measure your movement throughout a day and compare it to other days or to recommended amounts for your age and ability. This may motivate you to move more and set goals. The recommended number of steps accumulated per day to achieve health benefits is 10,000 steps or more.
Our bodies tend to get used to physical activity, so continue to increase your intensity as you are able to improve your fitness levels. You can increase the intensity of your walks by:
- Walking up hills or over rougher terrain.
- Walk with a backpack containing a brick
- Walk with hand weights
- Walk at a brisker pace
- Do longer walks a couple of times a week.
- Train for challenge such as the Trailwalker for Oxfam, or to do part of an iconic walk such as the Cape to Cape in Western Australia or The Great Coastal walk in Victoria or any of the amazing walks in any of the Australian states.
You need to warm up by walking at a leisurely pace so your muscles have time to warm up and once you have warmed up you need to increase your speed to a level you are comfortable with. It is important to do some stretching exercises to stretch your leg muscles at the completion of your walk. Each stretch should be held for 20 seconds and you should target your calves and thighs.
It is essential to wear comfortable lightweight clothing and appropriate footwear. Ill-fitting or the wrong footwear can cause blisters, foot or shin pain and even injuries to soft tissue. Always take adequate water to avoid dehydration and drink plenty of fluids pre and post walk.