Monday, January 5, 2009

Power of Walking: Getting Started, Technique

So you’ve put on a few pounds over the past few years and your feeling a little sluggish these days. You’ve told yourself so many times that you need to lose some weight and start exercising that it has become a mantra.

Over the years your mind has become the home of many excuses not to exercise; your too busy, it’s too costly; you’re too tired… You reminisce about what you could be doing with the money you’ve spent on unused gym memberships. It’s all too exhausting to think about. You want to do something to get fit but you don’t know where to start.

Here’s an easy way to get started on the road to fitness:

Start Walking!
Walking is a healthy, affordable and enjoyable way to start exercising.

  • Benefits of Walking
  • Increase Overall Cardio-Respiratory Fitness
  • Decrease Risk of Heart Disease
  • Reduce Body Fat
  • Tone Problem Area’s
  • Increase Endurance
  • Reduce Stress
  • Increase Energy

Begin gradually. Work up to a moderately brisk walking pace.

Duration and Frequency: Start off by walking 2 to 3 times per week, 20-30 minutes. If fat burning is a goal, you will want to gradually increase your walking time to 45 to 60 minutes. As you become fit, you will want to increase the frequency of walking to 4 to 5 times per week.

Intensity: Your walking pace will be an important factor in improving fitness. If fat reduction and overall improved cardio-respiratory functioning, (heart and lungs) are goals, you will want to start off at a moderately brisk pace. There are two ways to measure workout intensity, heart rate and the "talk test".

Heart Rate
When determining appropriate workout intensity, fitness professionals talk about heart rate training zones. If you are looking to reduce body fat, you will want to work in a heart rate zone that will allow you to sustain your walking without becoming breathless. The harder you work without becoming breathless, the more calories you will burn. A good starting heart rate range is 55 to 75% of your maximal heart rate, (220-age multiplied by percentage of maximal heart rate). For example, a 44 year old who wants to train at 65% of their maximal heart rate would want to get their heart rate up to 114 beats per minute or 19 beats per 10 seconds, (220-44=176 X 65=114).

Talk Test
A second and less complicated way to measure workout intensity is the talk test. This method is easier and can be used alone or along with heart rate monitoring. The talk test is this simple: exercise at an intensity that allows you to talk while you walk.

Staying hydrated throughout any workout is extremely important. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after your walk. You can buy a shoulder strap or waist pack to carry your water with you on your walk.


You can walk in a way that is comfortable for you, but here are a few tips that will maximize the benefits of walking.

Hold your head high and keep your chin parallel to the ground. Walk heal, ball of the foot, through to the toe. Don’t forget to breathe!!! Breathing delivers oxygen to the cells and helps with energy production. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Pull in your stomach muscles. Keep your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and swing your arms. Swinging your arms will make your walk a full body workout.


Stretching is a very important part of any exercise program and should be done before and after you walk. Stretching prepares your muscles for an activity, increases flexibility, decreases soreness and decreases the likelihood of injury.

Muscles respond better to stretching when they are warm so walk at a moderate pace for 5 to 10 minutes and then stretch. You will want to stretch the quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh), the hamstring muscles, (back of the thigh), and the calf muscles.

Quadriceps Stretch: Using a wall or tree as support for your left hand, reach back with the right hand and grasp the right foot or ankle. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Hamstring Stretch: Bend over at the waist and attempt to touch the ground with your hands or stand on one leg and put the other leg up on a wall or table so that the leg is parallel to the ground. Bend over and attempt to bring your hands to your ankles or toes. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

Calf Stretch: Using a wall or tree as support, place one foot behind you. Keep your back leg straight and your front knee bent. Lean forward and attempt to touch your hands to your ankles or toes. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.


Exercise is so important for you health. You don’t need to spend hours each day to enjoy the health benefits of exercise. Here are some ways in which you can get 30 minutes to one hour of exercise each day:

* Take the time to walk the dog in the morning and evening.
* Walk during your lunch break or meet with a colleague for a walking meeting.
* Take an after dinner walk with a friend or mate.
* Start a walking club. You will meet interesting people and will enjoy spending three extra hours a week outdoors. If you live in a climate that does not allow you to walk outside in the winter, go to the mall and walk. Many malls already having a walking club you could join..


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