With all this walk talk, and step counting do you really know what you can achieve just by getting up and getting out?

What are the benefits of walking? Does your choice of footwear have an effect? Are there local walking groups you can join? And, although it may sound silly, are you walking right?  Read on to find the answers to these questions and more.

Benefits of walking

We all know that walking is good for us. It is commonly considered one of the easiest ways to inject some fitness into your life, can be done anywhere and anytime and doesn’t cost a thing.  But that’s not all.  There are many benefits to walking and here are our top 10:

  • Reduces risks of some cancers
  • Reduces risks of Type 2 Diabetes
  • Reduces risk of heart disease
  • Helps to keep blood pressure under control
  • Helps with weight management
  • Helps improve mood and gives a feeling of wellbeing
  • Improves bone strength
  • Helps cholesterol levels
  • Relieves stress
  • Helps to maintain lean muscle

Walk the walk

We all know how to walk. That’s why it is one of the easiest forms of fitness. But are you walking effectively?  Here’s a few tips to help you decide:

  1. Footwear – It is essential that footwear is supportive and provides adequate cushioning. You may need different footwear for different places – for example, country walking or rougher terrain may require a pair of walking boots, whilst pounding the streets or the local park would be better suited to a pair of good trainers.
  2. Clothing – As you walk, you will become warmer and may start to sweat. Therefore, comfortable clothing is essential. Don’t overdress. When you step out the door you should feel slightly chilled so that as you start to walk you warm up. Wear modern fibres that wick the sweat away and keep you warm as necessary. And please do wear reflective clothing at night.
  3. Walk right – Good posture is the foundation of a good walking technique. Stand straight and think tall, keeping your spine straight but relaxed.
  4. Focus – Your head should be level and your eyes focussed about 15-20 feet in front of you. Make sure your chin doesn’t poke forward.
  5. Swing your arms – Keep your shoulders relaxed and swing your arms backwards and forwards. Have a small bend at the elbow and the hands lightly closed. Straight arms on a long walk with no arm swing can give rise to pins and needles in the arms. Using your arms will help you to increase your pace and give you better balance.
  6. Tone as you go – Lightly tighten your stomach muscles when walking to help toning.
  7. Stay straight – Make sure you don’t bend forward from the hips.
  8. Find your form – Walking with good form will make it less of a challenge. To do this make sure that you walk with your feet hip bone width apart.
  9. Best foot forward – The heel of the foot should strike the ground first and thenas the body’s weight passes over the leg, the foot should roll forward and push off from the toes to begin the next step.  Use all your toes. A strong push helps to increase pace.
  10. Relax – If you are tense, your muscles use more oxygen and you will fatigue quicker. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Breath out slowly and comfortably – not forcibly – ideally you should breath out twice as long as you breath in.

Common mistakes

Obviously, we all know how to put one foot in front of the over, but are we doing more to hinder our progress than help it?  Follow these simple tips to help you achieve your goals with ease:

  1. Pace yourself – If you are not used to walking use a walking programmes to build up. There are a number of free apps available to download.
  2. Research – The British Heart Foundation website gives some useful advice
  3. Shorter strides – Do not try to increase your stride length. It may be counterproductive and could give you back pain. It is better to do shorter faster steps.
  4. Drink right – Drink a glass of water before you go and every hour of your exercise. It is as dangerous to drink too much, as it is to not drink enough. As a guide, weighing yourself before and after exercise can often help indicate whether you are drinking too much or too little. A loss or gain of more than 2% of your weight may mean that you aren’t drinking the right amount.
  5. No weights – Don’t walk carrying weights (backpack, ankle and arm weights), these can cause unnecessary strain.

If you want to further improve

For those that want their walking to be more of a challenge, to help build up more of a sweat and burn more calories, try:

  • walking up hills
  • increase the pace
  • walk with a friend or group to keep motivated

Group goals

Walking with others is a sociable way to exercise and can also help improve motivation and results.  These links might be helpful if you are looking to join a local walking group:

https://www.walkingforhealth.org.uk/walk/search/CR5

http://www.ramblers.org.uk/walkabout

https://www.walkingforhealth.org.uk/get-walking/walking-health-conditions

High hopes

And lastly, if you want to wear high heels – at a party or special event, then try the following to make walking just that little bit easier:

  1. Take smaller steps
  2. Stand straight – don’t let your bottom stick out
  3. Walk from heel to toe
  4. Practice wearing your heels around the house so that you break them in
  5. But also practice walking in your heels outdoors!!
  6. Work on your balance – try balancing on one leg without any shoes and aim to build up to a minute.

So, what are you waiting for? Put your best foot forward and walk your way to a healthier and happier lifestyle.