Look at any old photograph. People hundred years ago, even fifty years ago seemed slimmer, fitter than the average person of today. What is the secret to this fitness? What was it that people did then, that we do not do now?
The answer is simple. They walked.
Till about the Second World War, walking was the most commonly used means of going from one place to another. If one needed to buy something, one walked to the store. If one needed to visit the nearest neighbor (who might be living a few miles away), one walked.
One walked to work, to school and to social occasions.
In the recent decades, we are walking less and less. And sitting down more and more. And we are far heavier and unhealthier than our ancestors.
The simplest way to be healthier and fitter is by walking. More and more people are nowadays adopting this form of exercise into their daily lifestyles.
The biggest advantage with walking lifestyle is – anyone can do it. You do not need to be young and healthy, fit and in training. Barring exceptions, most of us can start walking almost immediately and choose our own level of comfort with walking.
However a casual stroll around your living room (and if you are more adventurous – around the neighborhood) cannot be called a workout.
Whether you are walking slow or fast, for long or for short distances, you need to treat it as a form of exercise. Only then will you reap any benefit from it.
Making Every Walk Count
According to WebMd, a few simple steps could help us maximize the benefit we reap from our walking exercise . Let’s take a look at some of them:
Get the right pair of Shoes: Walking like running could be hard on your feet. So make sure to wear comfortable shoes. They should be light and well fitted, breathable and cushioned. A good pair of shoes should be flexible while giving support to your feet. However remember to replace your shoes every six months at the very least.
Have Specific Targets: Set realistic goals for yourself. Go for at least four to six walks per week. Beginners would be advised to start walking twenty minutes per day. As you advance, aim to walk for an hour every day.
Remember to Warm Up: For the first five minutes, walk slowly at strolling pace. And then pick up the pace gradually.
Get on your Stride: Walk straight, naturally. Every one of us has a natural gait. Don’t try to change yours. Just remember to keep your back straight and head held high.
Swinging’s Good: Keep your arms loose so that they can swing away as they’d want. The movement of your arms will aid in your walking and also help keeping your body loose and relaxed.
Tighten Up: Squeeze your hips as you walk. Make sure your legs, from the hips down are engaged in walking. This can go a long way in avoiding injury.
Alternate Speed: Walk fast for a couple of minutes and then slow down for four to five minutes. The changing pace will not only keep your walk interesting but will also help pace you out during the exercise.
Cool down and Stretch: Before you come to a complete stop, remember to walk slowly for about ten minutes to allow your heart and body to cool down. After you finish do some basic stretching exercises.
Set Your Own Pace
Before deciding on your walking workout think for a while on your current level of fitness and about what you want to achieve. Every one of us walks differently and can get different results from our walking lifestyle. However there are some popular types of walking that you can try.
This is the simplest form of walking. You walk like you would normally walk but a little bit faster. How fast? Well, the general consensus is – about 5 kms per hour.
This kind of walking is ideal for beginners. However do not let the kilometer per hour number scare you. Set your own pace. But do remember to push yourself a bit.
This is people with a level of fitness higher than that of brisk walkers. The pace should be about seven to nine kms per hour.
More and more people are opting for Power Walking as an option to jogging. It is believed that it burns as much calories as jogging while doing less damage to feet and knees. To make sure that you get the most out of your Power Walking routine, try the following:
Try different terrain: Try walking on a beach. Or gravel. It is far more difficult to walk on these terrains than on roads. You will end up having a more intense work-out.
Uphill, Downhill: Walking up and down a hill could add more fizz to your routine. However while walking downhill, slow down the pace and take smaller steps. This will reduce the risk of injury.
Mix it Up: Stop a few times to do other kinds of exercises. Like push ups or stretches.
This is the Olympic Sport that everyone laughs at but love to watch.
Race Walking is an extremely tough sport and takes extreme endurance and fitness levels. The rule is – one of the athlete’s foot must be touching the ground at all times. Which means that before one foot leaves the ground, the other must be in place.
Popular race lengths are 20 kms and 50 kms. Some races are as long as fifty miles!
This is becoming more popular by the day. Marathon walking is exactly like running a marathon. Except that you walk it.
Many marathons around the world are opening up to walkers. Some marathons have come up that are specifically for walkers.
If you are thinking of trying this out, remember it is not too difficult. However you need take a few months to train yourself to be marathon ready.
Chi is the Chinese word for life force. Chi Walking uses the principles of the Chinese art of Tai Chi and uses them in walking exercise.
It has a five stage approach to walking including using correct posture, engaging the right muscles, creating the perfect balance, making a choice and moving forward properly
Pole Walking or Nordic Walking
This initially developed as an off season training for skiers. Nordic Walking or Pole Walking helps you include your upper body in your walking lifestyle. This form of walking involves a pair of specially designed poles.
The basic action includes using your arms to push down with the poles as you walk. According to the New York Times Pole Walking could end up consuming 63% more energy than when normal walking.
Nordic Walking also exercises different parts of the body like shoulder, abdomen, spine, chest, triceps, lats etc.
So you have just had a baby and put on a few pounds because of that. How do you lose them? And who will take care of the baby in the meantime?
The solution – as many new moms and even dads are finding out – is Stroller Walking. It is simply walking pushing the stroller with the baby in it, ahead.
According to the New York Times, there is one big disadvantage to Stroller Walking – the hands stay engaged with the stroller. You cannot swing your arms and this can lead to cramping of the neck and the upper back.
However one can always push the stroller with one hand. The other arm can then be swung to ease the back and neck muscles.
Pedometers are also called activity trackers. They help you in keeping a track on the level of walking exercise you are doing. They allow you to set realistic goals and achieve them.
Many modern activity trackers can also track other things – like the quantity and quality of your sleep, some can even count calories.
Can walking lifestyle be cardio exercise? Absolutely. According to livestrong.com, walking can give a complete workout to lungs, the heart and of course the major arteries and veins.
However to get the best Cardio results out of your walking, walk at a pace which challenges your fitness by a little bit. So casual strolls are out, brisk and power walking are in.
Walk towards a healthier You
It is estimated that for every hour you exercise walking, your life increases by about two hours. However that is not the only reason why you should be walking.
Walking is also one of the most pleasant exercises known to man. Make sure you enjoy every one of the walks you take.
Make an effort to notice things on the way – children playing in the park, the trees, the birds, the flowers. Smile often.