Walking is the ideal exercise for many of us. Simple, convenient, and inexpensive, walking is one of the easiest forms of aerobic exercise. It strengthens our muscles and bones, relieves daily stress, and improves our sense of wellbeing. Walking is a low impact activity that is gentle on the joints, making it ideal for people with arthritis or osteoporosis. Walking is also perfect for the solitary soul as well as for those who prefer a fun social activity in the company of friends.

Getting Started

Whether with a friend or on your own, open the front door and take your first step. The following race walking techniques will give you the best aerobic workout. Start gradually and increase your speed over time.

Stand tall. Take short, quick steps, being sure to land on your heels. Then smoothly roll forward to push off with your toes. Form loose fists with your hands and bend your arms at about a 90-degree angle. Pump your arms quickly back and forth as you walk.

When you are ready to increase the intensity of your routine you can walk faster or tackle uphill terrain.

Remember to keep an eye out for uneven or slippery surfaces, particularly if you suffer from osteoporosis or have trouble balancing. When inclement weather is a problem, check out local shopping malls for indoor walking tracks.

Body Benefits

Walking is an aerobic and a weight-bearing exercise. As an aerobic workout, it uses large muscle groups rhythmically and continuously while elevating your heart rate and breathing for a sustained time. Your body will work more efficiently with stronger muscles (including your heart) and more oxygen for your lungs and blood cells. The muscle groups most affected are the gluteus muscles, quadriceps, and hamstrings. As a weight bearing activity, walking causes your bones to work against gravity, stimulating and strengthening the bones in your legs, hips, and spine.

Weight loss is another benefit. Walking a mile with a target heart rate of 60-85 percent of your maximum heart rate burns just about the same amount of calories as a mile of jogging! The National Institutes of Health tell us that walking at an energetic pace for 30 to 45 minutes three times a week is enough to burn fat.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

To prevent injury, start with a few mild stretches that target the calves, gluteus muscles, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Then warm up your muscles a bit more with a slow starting pace. After about five to ten minutes you should feel your heart rate climb and begin to break a sweat. That means your muscles are ready for you to pickup speed.

Slacken your pace for the last ten minutes of your walk and allow your heart rate to slow. Stretch the same muscles groups again after your walk to prevent soreness and to enhance flexibility.

Why not start walking more today? Join the Challenge now!


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