Walking is a natural form of exercise that can help you build strong bones, lose excess weight, maintain optimum weight and develop endurance. Even though we all learn how to walk when we are very young, it is important to understand that walking for fitness requires correct technique and form. Just as with any other form of exercise, it is easy to hurt yourself if you neglect basic safety and style when walking. Read on for some simple tips to keep you safe as you walk for fitness.
Be sure to start out with a good, comfortable pair of walking shoes and socks that pad your feet well and do not rub. Proper support and cushioning are very important for the best results when walking for fitness.
Before you begin your walk, do some basic stretches. Simply raising your arms above your head in a natural stretch, bending over toward your toes and doing some side-to-side reaches 5-10 times each can help you loosen up before walking. Remember to breathe deeply as you stretch and as you walk to keep your muscles oxygenated and avoid stiffness and soreness.
Remember to rock your foot as you walk. Avoid stomping along on a flat foot. This can be very jarring to your entire body and can damage muscles and joints. Rock your foot from the heel to the toe with each step. Push off with your rearward foot to propel yourself forward rather than dragging yourself along by pulling with your forward foot. In other words, walk with a spring in your step.
Keep your stride comfortable. Avoid over-stretching and putting stress on your feet and legs in an effort to increase your speed. You can seriously damage your arches, heels, shins, hips and knees by attempting to take strides that are too long. Generally speaking, a person in fairly good shape can walk a mile in 10-15 minutes. Remember that you are walking for health, not speed. Select a comfortable medium stride and pace to cover ground efficiently and get the most benefit from your walk.
Be careful of your posture. Avoid stooping or throwing your shoulders too far back. Stand up straight and tuck your tailbone under a bit to avoid arching your back. Avoid straining forward with your neck and head. This will not help you walk any faster, but it will make your neck and shoulders sore. If you have a tendency to walk toed-out or toed-in, it may be wise to talk with your doctor or chiropractor about getting some orthopedic inserts to correct the positioning of your foot. Your toes should be pointed straight ahead.
Let your arms move naturally at your sides for normal brisk walking. If you are going for speed, you can bend your elbows to ninety degrees and pump your arms for more aerobic workout and to increase your level of speed. Be careful not to let your elbows flap. Keep them close to your waist. Avoid clenching your fists as this does not help and can cause stiffness, soreness and tension in your hands and wrists.
Vary your route. Just as with any other form of exercise, if you do the same thing over and over again, your body will become very efficient and you will not get as much benefit from your workout. On days when you feel mellow or tired, take a stroll along a level pathway. When you are feeling energetic, choose a route with some hills and steps for challenge. Be careful not to choose areas with slick, rocky or otherwise treacherous terrain. You want to be able to set a safe, steady pace without having to worry too much about falling or spraining an ankle.
Walking is excellent exercise for people of all ages. By preparing well and taking sensible precautions, you can reap the benefits of this excellent, natural form of exercise without worrying about injury. Follow the tips presented here to make the most of your walking workout.