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Wellness Tip: The easiest and most popular form of exercise is walking.

March 2017

Everyone needs regular physical activity

No matter what your age or fitness level, physical activity will improve your health. The easiest and most popular form of exercise is walking. Walking is easy. Almost anyone can do it. And you don’t need lessons to learn. You can walk any time, day or night. You can walk anywhere: sidewalks, trails, roads, fields, parks, treadmills, or shopping malls. Walking is also inexpensive – you don’t need to buy expensive sports equipment. All you need is loose-fitting clothing and a pair of comfortable shoes with cushioned soles, a good arch, and heel support. Buy walking shoes with uppers made of materials that breathe, such as nylon mesh.

With a good pair of shoes, you’re ready to begin your walking program. Keep these things in mind:

  • Ease into your walk. Pick up speed gradually as you get used to the exertion. Don’t overdo it in mileage or speed. Allow time for your body to adapt.
  • Drink water before and after your walk. If you walk more than 15 minutes, or if it’s hot, bring water along and sip while you walk.
  • Posture matters. Focus on the horizon, keep your shoulders back, and tuck in your abs (stomach muscles) to avoid arching your lower back.
  • Look ahead, not down at the ground.
  • Stand up straight when walking on level ground. Lean forward slightly when walking up hills, or at a very rapid pace.
  • Swing your arms, with your elbows bent up to but not more than a 90-degree angle. Keep your elbows fixed. Your hands come to the centerline in front of your body, but do not cross it. Pump your arms faster to help you walk faster.
  • Walk as fast as feels comfortable. You should be able to carry on a conversation while walking. If you’re too breathless to talk, you’re going too fast.
  • Check your breathing periodically to see if you’re exercising within your target intensity.
  • Take easy strides, not overly long ones. Your stride will lengthen as you pick up speed, but don’t force yourself to take longer steps.
  • Push off with your back foot for power. Generate push at the end of each step as your leg prepares to swing forward. You should feel as if you’re showing the sole of your shoe to someone behind you.
  • Land on the heel of your foot, and roll forward to drive off the ball of your foot. Walking only on the ball of your foot, or walking flat-footed, may cause fatigue and soreness.
  • Slow down a few minutes before you finish. This is your “cool down” period.
  • Gently stretch after walking.
  • Keep track of your progress with a walking journal or an online tracking program.
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