Walking is the simplest way to get fit — after all, you can do it just about anywhere!
Participate in National Walk Day
All in favor of kicking old man winter outta here, stand up! National Walking Day is April 1 — just in time to jumpstart our launch into spring. National Walking Day is recognized by the American Heart Association as a time to encourage walking as a way to get moving.
Walking is the simplest way to get fit — after all, you can do it just about anywhere. The American Heart Association recommends walking at least 30 minutes per day. If you use an activity tracker, your goal should be at least 10,000 steps per day. Either way, that’s what it takes to reduce disease risk and maintain your health.
To get started, be sure to wear comfortable clothes and supportive shoes. Consider dressing in loose layers. Loose clothing is the most comfortable when moving, and the layers allow you to shed a layer as your warm up. Walking or running shoes are recommended, and make sure you have room to wiggle your toes.
A few more tips from the American Heart Association if you’re just beginning a walking routine:
- Begin with short distances. Start with a stroll that feels comfortable (perhaps 5 to 10 minutes) and gradually increase your time or distance each week by 10 to 20 percent by adding a few minutes or blocks. If it’s easier on your joints and your schedule to take a couple of 10- to 20-minute walks instead of one long walk, do it! You will get the same health benefits either way.
- Focus on posture. Keep your head lifted, tummy pulled in and shoulders relaxed. Swing your arms naturally. Avoid carrying hand weights because they put extra stress on your elbows and shoulders. Don’t overstride. Select a comfortable, natural step length. If you want to move faster, pull your back leg through more quickly.
- Breathe deeply. If you can’t talk or catch your breath while walking, slow down. At first, forget about walking speed. Just get out there and move!
- To warm up, walk at an easy tempo for the first several minutes. Then gradually adopt a more purposeful pace. A good way to add variety is to incorporate some brisk intervals. For example, walk one block fast, two blocks slow and repeat several times. Gradually add more fast intervals with shorter recovery periods. Concentrate on increasing your speed while maintaining good posture.
- Walking hills is a great way to tone your legs. Using Nordic walking poles can help burn more calories and give you better posture and overall muscle endurance. Walking on a treadmill, while not as scenic, can be convenient during bad weather.
- The end of your walk is an ideal time to stretch since your body is warmed up. Stretch your hamstrings and calves as well as your chest, shoulders and back. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Track your progress. Although experts recommend walking at least 30 minutes a day, there are no hard and fast rules. Walking 60 minutes per day and brisk intervals will help you burn more calories. Fit walking into your schedule wherever and whenever you can. The best schedule is one that keeps you walking and keeps you fit!