Friday 5th April is National Walk to Work Day, and it is a great reminder to ditch the car, put on some walking shoes and take some gentle but effective exercise.
Walking is a basic movement we use every day, but it can require discipline to walk enough to gain health benefits. Some of the benefits of walking include improved blood circulation, disease prevention and the restoration of function. It also increases mobility, independence, and is a good opportunity for socialisation and outdoor activity.
The length of the walk should always match an individual’s level of fitness and health. Incorporating walking into your daily schedule is about making healthier choices towards a better lifestyle, and it's a change that you should maintain indefinitely. Here are 12 top tips:
To benefit from efficient walking follow the correct walking technique and observe good posture while walking. The correct upright posture is with shoulders down and back, chin parallel to the ground and walking with the heel striking the ground first. Swing the arms gently in opposition to the legs.
Strategies to walk more
Increase the pace of the walk gradually to a brisk walk; you may breathe more heavily but should still able to talk. Increase the speed and the rhythm gradually in a way that feels natural and comfortable to your body
Pre-plan the route
Be aware of the distance that you are going to walk, which should include your return journey distance as well, and be mindful of safety at all times. Have a rest at regular intervals; do not let yourself become exhausted.
Prepare yourself for different weather conditions by wearing appropriate clothing and other accessories required for walking, eg: for warm weather – light clothing, hat and sun cream; cold weather – wear warm clothes with hat and gloves, and suitable footwear if it is wet or icy; windy weather – wear warm layered clothes, as a drop in temperature may affect your vital signs.
Make an exercise playlist
Consider listening to music that also gives your mind room to wander and think about other parts of your life. You can also listen to music that is upbeat that you know that will give you motivation for your walk. Your walk should definitely be a chance to unwind!
Hydrate well before you begin walking
Make sure you have consumed at least a quarter to half a litre of water an hour an hour before you are about to walk. Drink more water if you plan to walk for a longer time. Give your body enough time to process the water before you start walking or while exercising as sometimes this may lead to stomach cramps. Carry a water bottle with you as you walk to keep yourself hydrated throughout your journey.
Set a time
When you first start walking, decide how many minutes you will walk. Choose a length of time you know you can make. Do not worry about how short that period is. Just keep moving until you reach it. Two to five minutes each day is a good start. That time will increase from week to week.
You can wear fitness or heart rate monitor watch to record your target heart rate and count the steps that you have taken during the day. It is recommended an individual should take 10,000 steps each day to keep their fitness at optimum level.
If you are able to achieve your target heart rate for 20 minutes then spend at least five minutes at the end of the walk to bring your heart rate back to where it was pre –walk. Slowing down the pace and stretching the long muscles are necessary after completing the walk.
Wear good supportive athletic shoes or comfortable shoes with good shock observer.
Practice abdominal breathing exercises while you walk and you may benefit even more.
Caution - or words to the wise
Always carry a mobile phone with you while walking to alert someone if you are in trouble, or carry a danger whistle to call for help. If you become short of breath while walking, slow down or stop and do not hesitate to summon for help. Check with your doctor before you start your exercise programme if you haven’t been physically active for more than six months. Wear comfortable clothing (with reflective fabrics) and appropriate foot wear. Carry a clip-on light or flashing armband especially where there is no proper pavement, to alert cyclist or others who may not see you in the dark.