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Walking It Off

 

One of the basic components of any long-term exercise plan is walking. It can be done in your neighborhood, at a local park, or even on the treadmill at a gym. And adding stairs – numerous times up and down the stairs of your home or apartment building, or opting for the stairs instead of the elevator at work – can only add to the amount of walking done as part of a workout plan.

Walking at a moderate pace for 30-60 minutes at a time burns stored fat and builds muscle, thereby increasing metabolism and weight loss. It has also been found to cut risks of heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, and stroke. And walking can decrease anxiety, improve concentration, and reduce stress.

While some people enjoy a brisk walk, a slow walk can be more beneficial to those seeking weight loss. More calories are burned per mile at low speeds because each step expends energy; faster movements create more momentum and require less energy. A quicker pace is better suited for those seeking to build muscle.

Before beginning a regular walking routine, it is important to possess the correct footwear and clothing. A shoe store salesperson should be able to direct you to a pair of shoes that are flexible for walking and sized properly for the swelling of the feet that happens while walking. The shirt or tank top should be of a light material like polypropylene – not cotton – that will keep sweat away from the body, and a larger t-shirt, sweatshirt, or light jacket can be added if the weather warrants. Depending upon the time of day, a hat and/or sunscreen might need to be added to the lineup.

While walking, use your arms to counterbalance the leg motions by bending them 90 degrees and swinging them back and forth opposite the legs. This helps with power, speed, and posture. Also, straighten the back and keep the chin parallel to the ground.

It is most important to stay hydrated before and after walking. It is recommended to drink one eight-ounce glass of water every hour throughout the day, but more specifically, ten minutes before a walk. Another cup of water is advised at 20 or 30 minute intervals during the walk, and one to two glasses of water will rehydrate after the walk. If the walk lasts more than two hours, an electrolyte-replacement sports drink in addition to the water is advised.

Walking is an important part of any exercise regimen and can be done in the morning, evening, or even on a lunch break at work. It is a basic form of exercise that holds the potential for numerous mental and physical benefits if done regularly

By Jennifer Newell

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