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Walk Your Way To Better Health
February 10, 2011 - Dalia Jakubauskas
We’ve all done it –made a thousand excuses not to exercise. Heard these before? “I can’t afford a gym;” or ”I hate to sweat;” or “I couldn’t possibly miss this episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey;” or my personal favorite “I just don’t have the time.” Well, what if an exercise existed that is free, available at all hours of the day or night and can be done by anyone without a serious physical disability? It does exist and is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other on your path to better health. Walking is one of the healthiest forms of physical activity there is and one that the majority of us already have to do just to get from point A to point B. To get and stay healthy, adults 18 years of age and older need to get about 4 hours of moderate aerobic activity per week. That’s just 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week of brisk walking. Somewhere in your day there is 30 minutes to spare. Here’s how to get started. If you have been completely sedentary and are embarrassingly out of shape, try walking 10 minutes away from your home and then walk 10 minutes back. Just stroll for the first few minutes to warm up your muscles then try walking fast enough that your breathing is increased but you are not our of breath. Slow down during the last few minutes pf your walk to allow your heart and respiration to return to normal. Do this 3 to 6 days for a week. The following week try adding an additional 5 minutes to your routine and then another 5 minutes the week after that. Build your fitness base slowly until you feel ready for longer walks – 45 minutes to an hour, 3 to 4 days per week should be your goal. Once your ready for more, here are some tips for walking faster and increasing the intensity of your workout.
1. Use good posture. Walk tall with your chin level and head up. Gaze about 20 feet ahead and not at the ground. (Looking down will cause you to hunch forward).
2. Keep your chest raised and shoulders relaxed.
3. Bend your arms at a little less than a 90-degree angle with your hands gently cupped. Swing your arms front to back but do not raise them higher than your breast bone. Do not allow your arms to cross your body. As you swing your arms faster, your feet will follow.
4. Pretend you are walking along a straight line using small fast steps. Longer steps actually slow you down.
5. Push off your toes. Land on your heel while rolling through the step pushing off your toes.
6. Breathe naturally. Take deep rhythmic breaths as you walk. Walk fast enough to fell breathy but not so fast that you are gasping for air. You should be able to draw enough breath to walk and talk at the same time.
Some walking don’ts include the following:
1. Do not over stride.
2. Do not use too vigorous or exaggerated arm movements.
3. Do not look at the ground. This promotes bad posture and decreases your ability to balance well.
4. Avoid hunching your shoulders.
5. Do not carry hand weights or ankle weights. This can cause muscle, ligament and tendon damage and tends to pull your body weight forward causing you to hunch. The hardest part of an exercise routine is making it a habit. But once you establish that habit, you’ll find it hard to go back to being a couch potato. Sometimes finding other activities that incorporate walking into your busy schedule helps get you in the habit of exercise. For instance, if there is a dog in your life, you have to walk the critter. Vigorous walks are good for both of you. Park your car further away from the store, or if at all possible, walk to the store to pick up small items. Take the kids or the grandkids to the beach and take the whole bunch for a walk along the water to hunt for shells. Or use your walks as time for lively conversation with your partner. The rewards of your new found habit include a stronger heart and respiratory system, denser bones, increased mental alertness, weight loss and muscle gain. Best of all, you don’t even have to leave your neighborhood to do it. Florida is not called the “Sunshine State” for nothing And with so many, beautiful days to enjoy, living here means getting out to enjoy them. None of us, whether a native, snowbird or permanent transplant, live here because we want to spend our lives indoors. But each of us has to make the first step toward healthier living. Walking out the door is a great start.
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