National Walking Day is every year on the first Wednesday in April. Walking is free, fun helps both your body and mind and is one of the easiest forms of physical activity. Some people take walking for granted and do not understand some of the best practices.
Benefits of walking:
- Stronger immune system – studies show walking 4 hours a week resulted in 43% fewer sick days.
- Lower risk of disease by lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and improving blood circulation.
- Improved Insulin response and belly fat reduction. A recent study published by Harvard University shows that 30 minutes of brisk walking can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by a whopping 30 percent.
- Improved digestion by core engagement and stimulation of gastrointestinal movement.
- Increased lung volume.
- Varicose vein prevention by strengthening the secondary circulatory system.
- Stronger bones with hip fracture reduction by 40%
- Less joint pain and more joint protection in knees and hips. The Arthritis Foundation recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate walking a day to reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the joints.
- Muscle strength also improves balance and coordination.
- Better sleep by falling asleep faster and sleeping more soundly.
- Improve your mood, cognition, memory, and creativity.
- Reduce tension and stress.
- Weight loss and burning calories
- Posture improvement
- Breast cancer risk reduction. The American Cancer Society found that women who walk a minimum of 7 hours weekly have a 14% lower risk of developing breast cancer once menopause starts.
Do you have neck, hip, knee, back or foot pain while walking? Do you get a headache?
Like running, the key to walking best practices is to reduce impact. While walking notice if your heel hits pavement first. Walk smoothly rolling your foot and weight from heel to ball of the foot to toes. Push off from the toes of your back foot to take the next step. Your back foot is going to give you the power that helps propel you forward. Your toes should face forward so that your ankles are in a neutral position.
If your stride is too long, it can cause injury to your hips, knees, and ankles so it is best to shorten your stride. When power walking it is important to reduce stride and increase the pace to prevent injuries.
- Foot placement is important and so is posture.
- Standing straight
- Eyes forward
- Chin up
- Shoulders back and relaxed
- Pelvis neutral or middle
- Core muscles engaged
Resist the urge to engage with your phone or activity monitor while walking. Check your posture regularly.
The right posture makes you look and feel longer and look thinner. Maintaining proper walking posture can help:
- Improve walking speed, distance, and stride
- Increase energy levels
- Make breathing easier
- Prevent back and hip pain
- Promote better balance and stability
- Reduce the risk of injury and falling
- Strengthen core, leg, and butt muscles
Engage your arms to help with balance and posture. Bend your arms 90 degrees and swing them naturally back and forth opposite the leg motion. Incorporate bicep and triceps workouts while walking by carrying 1+ pound hand weights. People with pre-existing joint or cardiovascular problems should not use weights while walking.
Shoes: The wrong shoes can cause plantar fasciitis, muscle pulls, and knee problems. Wear properly cushioned footgear and replace them every five hundred miles. A flexible sole and breathable fabric are important. If you walk more than 30 minutes, try a shoe size that is half of the size bigger. Your feet will swell. If your feet or legs hurt after walking, you may need new shoes. People should get fitted by a shoe expert in the evening with the socks that they wear while walking at a running or walking shoe store.
Clothing that is reflective should be worn if it is dark outside. Studies show it is best to have several reflective elements on to be seen from all directions.
Warm-Up and Cool Down
The point of the warmup is jump-starting your cardiovascular system, raise body temperature, and increase blood flow to your muscles. The cooldown helps your body return to normal body temperature and muscle soreness and stiffness. Begin and end your walk with 5 minutes of strolling before full-on exertion. Stretching helps relax your body, increases flexibility, and prevents muscle soreness by lengthening muscles.
Shoulder circles forward and back
Trunk rotations, gentle turns left and right
If you use a cane and walker as walking aids, wise to be accurately assessed and fitted by a physical therapist. A walking stick or hiking poles may relieve joint pressure and help with balance. If walking has been difficult due to a condition, make sure you are walking in areas that offer places to sit down and rest. Plan out either your time or distance before you start your walk. Time to turn around is important because you do not want to accidentally overdo it on your walk and then have to struggle to make it back home. Overextending is counterproductive to fitness health.
Goals are great but listen to your body. Modify your distance, time, and activity level based on what your joints are telling you. Pain is a warning sign to reduce activity. Seek guidance from your physical therapist if pain persists.
How Far to Fitness?
To keep fit, most experts recommend 10,000 steps a day.
To lose half a pound a week, you will need to walk at least 40 minutes daily at a pace of four miles per hour. The faster you walk, the more calories you will burn.
A safe recommendation is to increase your distance by 5 – 10% per week to reduce unnecessary soreness and prevent injuries.
Boost the calories burned by about 25 percent by walking in hilly areas.
Power walking (walking fast and pumping your arms) is an effective way to strengthen muscles and burn as many calories as jogging.
Do not use hand or ankle weights when walking. Experts caution against them because they can cause injuries to your joints, ligaments, and tendons. Weights will not increase the number of calories burned.
Ways to insert fun in your walk. Remember to pre-plan with these apps and not engage with your phone while walking. If wearing headphones, always stay alert of things that you can no longer hear.
Mapmywalk – by Under Armour uses GPS to calculate data from your walk, including mileage, elevation, calories burned, and duration. A favorite feature is the ability to save your favorite routes or find new ones to explore.
Walkmeter is a GPS-powered walking and hiking app geared toward fitness walkers, not beginners. It offers training plans for 5k and 10k programs, and half and full marathon plans, or you can design your own plan and synchronize them with your iPhone calendar. The app offers data comparison with previous walks by analyzing stats like your split, interval, and zone performance, setting targets, and competing against your previous workouts. Free or monthly fee options
Strava app which will record routes, map your favorite bike trail, or run & analyze your training with all the stats – for free! The record routes feature is fun. Friends & followers can comment & share their own routes. This app is for a wide range of activities not just walking.
Rover is a dog walking app.
Charitymiles to raise money for a cause
Cashforsteps is an apps that pays you to walk
Fitbit Mobile Track is an app that you do not need a watch.
Fun to Change it Up
- Add a workout section to your walk. For example, every other block add a form of exercise like lunges, jumping jacks, etc.
- Bring a walking friend
- Make phone calls to help pass time
- Listen to educational podcasts or audiobooks
- Look for items in nature that inspire you
- Become a dog walker
- Design your own bingo game
- Discover the area by trying new paths
- Walk from place to place while doing errands
- Take pictures of cool things
- Journal your expedition when you get home
- Add birdwatching into the mix
- Join a group
- Change the time of day you walk
Do you have any innovative ideas to spice up your walks? Walking can be an activity you look forward to each day instead of a chore. Stay safe and enjoy. We would love to hear about your walking best practices or ideas. Email email@example.com. We would also like you to be injury-free. Having to evaluate you to ensure safety and injury prevention.