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Front Page » July 8, 2004 » Health Focus » Lace Em' Up and Walk
Published 4,114 days ago

Lace Em' Up and Walk

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Sun Advocate community editor

Lacing up the shoes to a proper snugness is an important part of walking. Loose shoes cause injuries.

Everyone enjoys a good walk.. or almost everyone.

It used to be if a person wanted to get somewhere most of the time they walked there. Imagine trampling over fields and old dirt roads with no pavement, large holes looming and creatures peering out of the trees.

Now the modern walker must avoid vehicles, holes in the road, curbs and gutters and dogs running out of yards.

Things haven't really changed much have they.

Difference is now most people walk for a different reason... their health. In today's sit behind the computer desk, couch potato, easy chair, luxury SUV society, walking has almost become a lost art. But more and more people are finding the joy in it.

However, it does take work and commitment to start a good walking program.

Walking is one of the easiest and most profitable forms of exercise. All a person needs is a good pair of shoes (and they don't have to be expensive), comfortable clothing, and a desire to succeed at it.

First of all choose a good quality, lightweight walking shoe. The pair of shoes selected should be comfortable to the person using them, not what the salesman says is the latest fashion. The fit is very important. Make sure the shoe is snug, but not too tight. Shoes should always be fitted over the type of socks that are going to be used. Sports podiatrists frequently recommend appropriately padded socks of acrylic fiber. Acrylic fibers tend to "wick" away excessive perspiration, which active feet can produce from 250,000 sweat glands at a rate of four to six ounces a day.

To start out a person needs to determine his or her needs from a program. Are they doing it for fun and to see things in the neighborhood or is it for exercise or maybe even both? Can some of it be done on a treadmill during bad weather, or are they the kind of person that can't stand walking in one place and going nowhere? If so a year round program will take some adjustment in clothing and temperament or finding places where walking can be done inside.

Another important aspect of beginning a walking program is assessing just how much is too much the first few times out. Just like every physical endeavor, if the body isn't used to the exercise aches and pains will show up the day after the initial outing. If the first time walker over does it, the pain could overcome the desire to go ahead.

Before walking begins, hydration is important regardless of the weather. Most people like to walk in the evening or early morning when it is cool, but water is just as important then as at any time of the day. In addition people should protect themselves against various kinds of insect bites by wearing the proper clothing and using repellents. Also there is one other word of advice. Use the bathroom before leaving. It is amazing how a good walk can wake up all kinds of things in a persons body.

Another important thing is to get ready for the walk. Stroll around slowly and do a few stretches before taking off. This will help to prevent injuries.

Once walking it's best to start out the program slow and easy. For the majority of people that means head out the door, walk for 10 minutes, and then walk back. People should move at their own pace the first few times, so even if you get lonely and want to take someone else along to keep you company, it is best to refrain from doing so. That is especially true if you have someone in good shape who wants to go. People walk at different paces, and a strong companion walker can be intimidating for the first time stroller.

Some people, like this letter carrier in Helper walk vigorously many miles every day. However, while many people feel they do walk a lot at work, it often isn't the kind of walking that really benefits their health.

Spend the first few days to a week going for the 20 minute jaunt. Find different ways to travel around the neighborhood; try different streets and byways. Soon it will be apparent which is the most comfortable, and which has the most loose dogs to contend with.

At the end of the first week add five minutes to the walk each way (away and back) for week or two. Keep adding five minutes every few days until the walking time or distance that is desired is achieved.

When walking it is important to keep a good posture. Walking tall is a good idea. Hold the head up and the eyes forward. The shoulders should be down and relaxed. Swing the arms naturally.

The hardest thing about a walking program is developing the discipline to keep it going. It's a lot like a diet in the sense that if one falls off it is sometimes very hard to get on it. Set a time of when walking fits into the daily schedule. Remember that it does take time to do so either something is going to have to be eliminated or more time added to the day (That can be done by getting up earlier in the morning and using that time.) The time of day the exercise takes place should remain constant if possible, because walking is a habit that most people have to grow into. Once the habit is established, if a person misses a day out of their regular regimen, they notice.

The next question is how many days a week a person should walk. Again that depends on schedule. Some people walk every day, but much of it depends on what a person is trying to do with the program. In the beginning every day can be too much, but try for five days a week. If a person likes to sleep in on one of the weekend days make it one of the days walking will not take place. A program should be rigorous enough to achieve endurance and a higher heart rate, but not tedious, painful or joyless.

Once a habit is formed the walker will want to evaluate their program and goals. When a person is doing it for their health they should check with their physician about what is best.

When walking for general health benefits individuals should try to walk 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. The pace should be fast enough to tax the lungs, but not so fast as they couldn't talk to someone if they wanted to have a conversation with a neighbor.

To improve cardiovascular fitness walk 3 to 4 days a week, 20 to 30 minutes at a very quick pace. If walking for weight loss individuals should walk a minimum of five days a week, 45 to 60 minutes at a medium pace.

New walkers may find they have joint or muscle problems they didn't know existed. Any pain beyond sore muscles should be investigated by going to a physician.

Many walkers are into miles as much as they are into the time actually put in. A pedometer is a good purchase for those people. These devices measure steps and can be used to calculate distance. The average persons stride is about 2.5 feet. That means that if a person puts in a day with 10,000 steps they will have walked about five miles.

The fact is that the average sedentary American walks less than 3,000 steps per day, and that exercise comes in short bursts which gives very little exercise to the lungs or heart. Adding steps to that life-style has many health benefits including weight control, improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a decrease in the risk of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease.

The benefits of a strenuous walking program are many, but most of all people often find their increased capacity for exertion helps them in many other areas of life. Suddenly those stairs from the basement seem a breeze to glide up rather than lumber upon. Mowing the lawn with that push mower becomes a joy instead of a tedious chore. And when people recreate doing other things they love they can really tell a difference. That climb up to the family's favorite waterfall in the mountains is no longer only reserved for those under 25. The long walk back to camp when an ATV breaks down in the middle of the desert suddenly offers all kinds of possibilities.

But probably the best thing it gives is a sense of purpose that most adults lost when they grew out of being a young teenager. It is an achievement to walk five miles and then more. For those over 40 it is a big deal; for those over 50 it is a super deal; and for those 60 years and older is a pleasure to be able to keep up with those 40 to 60 year olds.

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