During any given day we walk. We walk to the kitchen for coffee. We walk the dog. We may even walk to work. But did you know that doing this simple act of moving one foot in front of the other throughout our day can pack a healthy punch too?
When it comes to cardiovascular health, running may get a lot of hype, but walking is one of the most accessible and most underrated forms of exercise that almost everyone can do. It’s free and you can do it just about anywhere. And bonus: walking regularly each week could even extend your life!
The benefits of walking
“Walking definitely has many benefits—both physically and mentally—and is one of the most powerful ways to stay healthy, live longer and maintain a healthy weight,” said Anna Freemyer-Brown, DO, an orthopedic surgeon with Health Clinic in Colorado. “It is so simple that most everyone can do it.”
Walking for fitness can help you:
- Reduce your risk for heart disease and peripheral artery disease (PAD), cancer or developing Type 2 diabetes
- Improve heart health, increasing your intake of oxygen, strengthening your heart to pump more blood, improving circulation and lowering blood pressure
- Slow the development of arthritis and loss of bone mass
- Manage your diabetes and weight
- Tone muscles
- Provide relief from arthritis and back pain
- Promote restful sleep
- Elevate your mood
Seven tips to kickstart a walking workout
Ready to get out there? Before you slip on your socks and shoes, here are some tips to keep in mind.
- Find the right footwear. A good pair of walking shoes with plenty of arch support and flexibility will help you travel greater distances in comfort.
- Start with shorter walks. If you’ve been inactive, then start out gently with short walks and slowly build up over a couple weeks to months.
- Warm up. Before you engage in a moderate to fast walking pace, take a few minutes walking at a slower pace to get your body primed.
- Take a rest day. See how walking effects your body and determine if you need to build in rest days.
- Gently stretch afterward. Don’t stretch cold muscles. Wait to gently stretch post-walk.
- Take long strides but don’t overstrain. It’s possible to reach too far with your legs while walking, which can strain your joints and lead to pulled muscles. Try to find your walking sweet spot.
- Keep track of your progress. Consider a pedometer or fitness tracker to track your progress and help motivate you to walk more.
Do you believe you are at risk for heart disease or PAD? Don’t let it stop you in your tracks. Take this quick artery fit test to learn which foot and leg symptoms to look out for and whether you should be screened by your health care provider.
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