Walking for Fitness
Have you ever considered walking for fitness. Remarkably, getting fit by walking is a low impact and easy way to improve your overall fitness, especially if you are a first timer or coming back from injury!
Before you start
Make sure that you are ready physically by seeing your doctor, especially if you have been sedentary for a while, and have any condition which could be affected by exercise, such as high blood pressure.
Warm-up and stretch the lower body, especially the calves. See the section on stretching in the Fitness section of the web site. Perform a gradual 5 minute walk then stretch. Likewise on completion stretch out again to help prevent muscle soreness and strain in your muscles.
Prepare your route, what you are wearing and learn how to deal with any emergencies.
Concentrate on safe routes in busy areas that you know when starting out, just in case you feel ill, or simply to tired to continue and to avoid getting lost.
Public parks, shopping areas and zoos are all ideal beginner's routes. For those that are slightly fitter nature trails and larger parks offer both great scenery and a wider variety of routes. Make sure that you stick to both well established tracks and if possible have a map and compass of the area, with the knowledge to use it.
It is important that your clothes are both comfortable and practical. Prepare to dress for any weather, especially in the UK, where the weather can change rapidly.
Keeping your clothing clean will enable the fibres to both keep your warm and also take the sweat away from your body; matted fibres will not do this.
Wearing layers will enable you to both keep warm, as the air is trapped between the layers of clothing, and also let you take layers off as you start to get warm.
Aim to carry a waterproof jacket and hat in case the weather turns cold and wet, or if you meet another walker who may have had an injury, and needs to stay warm.
Avoid going for looks; go for comfort when choosing your walking shoes. Training shoes with a laced fit, with rubber soles offer good support for general walking on firm ground. If walking over uneven hilly ground a hiking boot with more support is recommended.
When purchasing your shoes, wear your socks, sports socks for trainers, or two thin pairs / one thick pair for hiking boots, cotton / wool non tight socks will allow your feet to breathe. There are many good designs from fitness walking shoes through hiking boots. You will want more flex in an athletic shoe, more support in a hiking shoe.
When choosing hiking boots, you should be able to twist them a bit (torsion flexibility). They need more of a bend than a running shoe - in the forefoot, not the arch, in order to keep the front of the boot slightly off the ground.
Inside the boot, you should have good arch support, and a correct fitting, if they feel tight, go up a size, as your feet will expand when hot and under pressure.
Boots should have a good pattern on the sole, with at least 1/2 inch of rubber to give both cushioning and grip. The rest of the boot should be made of strong leather or breathable nylon with good water proofing capabilities.
Items to carry with you :
If simply walking to work, don't forget your brief case and lunch.
Fluid if going on long walks, hot in a flask if weather is cold.
A whistle if walking in woods, or areas where you may get lost, blow for 6 loud blasts if lost, likewise if you hear, reply with 3 loud blasts back.
Snacks, if you are walking for more than an hour, keep your blood sugar up with healthy snacks, such as apples.
First Aid kit, containing plasters and if possible blister treatment kits.
Strong stick, useful for giving support whilst walking, and also in need of protection.
Money, always handy for a thousand and one uses, ask my girlfriend.
Sun cream and sun glasses if the weather is nice.
Choose different routes to walk, taking in the scenery and if possible the odd photograph of where you have been.
Walk with a partner, or better still join a walking group in your area, there are plenty around. If you can't find one, start one, I'm sure you will have people that will want to get out and enjoy the benefits of walking.
Monitor your increase in fitness, and how you feel both during your walk, and in everyday life. Make the walk a time to think about your life, feel positive about yourself, and bin any negative feelings.
The key to keeping fit whilst walking, is to keep it regular and increase your efforts slowly at your own pace. Obviously the faster you walk, the more calories you will burn in a given time, however if you walk to fast you can soon become tired. Walking is a pastime where time should not be an issue; getting fit and being in the fresh air should be your main goal.
On the last page you can see our walking chart