Filed Under:  Fitness, Health & Wellness

Walk your way to a healthy lifestyle

10th April 2012   ·   0 Comments

Americans can seldom get through the day without being offered the opportunity to “supersize” something. Whether it is a sugar-filled drink, French fries, that extra piece of chicken or an additional biscuit, the offer is often just too enticing. When you agree to supersize your meals, you are also supersizing your body! Phy­sical exercise, such as walking, is the recommended method of burning those extra supersized calories. Before you begin any exercise, first, check with your doctor to discuss an exercise plan that is best for you.

If you and your doctor select a walking regiment there are several options to consider. You may decide to walk in a mall, around a track or around your block. Wherever you walk, you will notice your spirits are lifted, your mind is clearer and your health is improved. By including walking in your daily routine, you can help control weight and improve your overall health.

Begin by walking 15 minutes each day with the goal of increasing your walking time to 30 minutes daily. You may choose to take one long walk or several short walks, any type of walking burns calories. To lose one pound of body fat, 3,500 calories of energy must be burned. Walking is inexpensive and can be done alone or with others. Comfortable, well fitted shoes will be your only expense. Physical activity doesn’t have to be difficult or painful; it just has to be consistent.

According to AARP:

• Walking helps control blood pressure as the heart and muscles responsible for movement are strengthened as oxygen is pumped through the entire body.

• Walking helps raise metabolism which burns fat and develops muscles thus managing body weight.

• Bones and joints are protected because of the low impact walking has on the body.

• Brisk walking helps prevent depression, lowers stress, creates a sense of wellbeing and improves sleep patterns.

When walking practice the following techniques:

• Follow through from heel to toe, pushing off the ball of your foot as you take each step.

• Keep ankles straight and avoid rotating your foot in or out.

• Make long and quick strides with knees bent for shock absorption.

• Wear well-fitted shoes that are padded for cushion and support.

• To prevent cramps do several stretch exercises before and after walking.

Begin each walk at a slow pace then steadily increase your speed if possible. Refrain from over exerting yourself as you do not want to have to stop walking early. If possible, alternate terrains. Walking up stairs helps strengthen leg muscles.

Safety should always be your main concern. The following are AARP recommended safety tips for walkers:

• Begin each walk by marching in place, moving your arms and stretching your arms, legs and back.

• Drink water before, during and after each walk.

• Use paths or sidewalks whenever available. If you must walk in or near a street, face oncoming traffic so you can see drivers and they can see you.

• Walk during daylight hours.

• Cross intersections very carefully and obey traffic signs.

• Refrain from wearing headphones. Nothing should be a distraction from keeping yourself safe.

Begin the new year with the resolution of beginning a daily walking regiment. Walking gives your muscles a workout, burns off stored fat and gives your mind a boost. It is easy, inexpensive, simple and quite enjoyable. What a great way to fight the battle of the bulge!

This article was originally published in the April 9, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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