Try walking on some sunshine as part of your exercise regimen. That's because walking is safe, fun, free, and an extra twenty minutes spent walking each day will burn off seven pounds of body fat per year! Join the 10 million Americans who already name walking as their favorite fitness activity. Tanya Beers and Martica Heaner from Prevention magazine share some tips.
We all know that walking is the safest, easiest form of exercise there is. To get started all you need is a good set of walking shoes and a reason to walk. Here’s what you need to know about buying the right walking shoe and finding easy ways to fit walking into your busy schedule.
If the shoe fits … buy it
When it comes to walking workouts, there’s nothing more important than a good shoe. “Don’t think that you can just go to the store and pick out cheap fitness shoes simply because you are a beginner or don’t walk much,” says Melinda Reiner, DPM, vice president of the American Association for Women Podiatrists. Different feet need different shoes. To find a perfect pair, keep these tips in mind:
Choose a walking shoe
Any old shoe may work, but a shoe designed for walking will decrease your risk of injury and boost performance. A good one will be flexible in the ball of the foot, but not in the arch. (A shoe that bends in the arch will place increased stress on the plantar fascia.) The heel should be cushioned (you don’t need a lot of padding in the forefoot) and also rounded to speed your foot through the heel-toe motion with ease.
Go offline for a fit This is one purchase that must be made in person. Whether you have low arches or tend to overpronate, the salespeople in a good, technical running store will watch you walk barefoot and help you choose the features you need. Best to try a store that’s independently owned.
Buy big People — women especially — tend to buy shoes that are too small. Ask the salesperson to help you check the fit, and don’t get caught up in thinking that you have to buy a size 8 because that’s what you’ve always worn. Athletic shoes can be sized quite differently from your dress shoes.
Toss ’em often Don’t skimp on your feet. Once the interior padding has lost its spring, it’s time for a new pair. Generally, that means replacing your shoes every 500 miles — sooner if you have foot, ankle, knee, or back problems.
Baby steps“It’s all too easy to stress tissues by going a little too far, too fast,” says Byron Russell, PT, PhD, chair of the department of physical therapy at Eastern Washington University. “People think, I’m just walking, so they don’t try to build up gradually. But if you’re not yet in shape, your body can’t tolerate longer distances or fast paces, especially if you have an existing problem.” If you’re getting started, walk just 10 to 20 minutes on mostly flat ground five times a week; then increase the time by 5 to 10% each week.
9 simple mileage boosters
- Lighten your load. Next time you lug laundry up and down the stairs or groceries to and from the car, carry less to create more trips.
- Keep track. Researchers found that women who wore pedometers were more likely to hit (and exceed) the commonly recommended 10,000 steps a day than women who didn’t.
- Mow the lawn: Trade your easy-does-it riding lawn mower for the old-fashioned push variety.
- Stay local. Forget the drive to the city cineplex. Instead, find theaters (or museums or flea markets) in your area, and leave the car at home.
- Play golf. If you ditch the cart, after nine holes, you’ll rack up an impressive 8,000 steps.
- Take that coffee break. Instead of sipping java at your desk, walk to get it (or walk instead). Most people can log 1,200 steps in just 10 minutes of walking. Aim for four 10-minute walks and you’re about halfway to your 10,000-step goal.
- Get a buddy. Grab your pooch, a neighborhood pal, or colleague and go. Research shows that strolling with someone else encourages you to take more steps.
- Park in no-man’s land. Stop aiming for the spot closest to the store. Park at the end of the lot.
- Use the stairs. Skip the elevator.
For more great walking tips and information on joining Team Prevention for the 2006 Walking Challenge, visit www.prevention.com/walking.