Fitness Walking Tips from the Wellness Center
Fitness Walking Tips from the Wellness Center

Fitness Walking Tips from the Wellness Center

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The Art and Science of Fitness Walking - 


Here are some walking basics that will help keep your walking workouts safe and effective by building your walking technique from the ground up:

The 8 Keys to Proper Fitness Walking
You thought walking was simple! There are a lot of things to keep in mind. This quick list summarizes the info above so you can get out there and put one foot in front of the other!

  1. Think heel-toe: Stand tall, with your shoulders back, head and neck aligned with your spine, and abs pulled in.
  2. Walk the Line: Push off with the toes of your rear foot, and land squarely on the heel of your lead foot.
  3. Roll through the entire foot, from heel strike to the ball of your foot to the final push off with your toes, allowing your ankle to more through its full range of motion.
  4. Find your stride: Avoid over-striding. Increase the number of steps per minute to increase speed.
  5. Pump-it-Up (Your arms that is): Bend elbows at a right angle, and swing your arms from the shoulder, keeping elbows close to your sides.
  6. Avoid clenching hands or over-swinging your arms.
  7. Take to the Hills: Minimize leaning on hills. Leaning can put strain on your back. Remember Posture.
  8. Don’t neglect stretching and strength training, especially if you experience burning or tightness in shins or calve muscles.

Walking is free, it's easy, and it makes a real difference, even if you don't always reach the U.S. Surgeon General's recommendation of 30 minutes on most days. By starting a walking routine, you'll live longer, gaining two hours of life expectancy for every hour of vigorous exercise according to the American Heart Association, and you could burn 125 calories per half hour (depending on your pace).

Walking and Proper Foot Wear

Although most people buy running shoes even if they have never jogged, the shoes you buy should be specific to the activity that you will be using them for.

  • Running shoes have additional cushioning to absorb shock as your foot hits the ground, which helps to reduce blisters. They are flexible and light. Running shoes are designed for forward motion, so they don't support you well when you move in other directions (like during basketball or step aerobics).
  • Trail shoes have added traction for running and walking in grass, mud, or trails.
  • Walking shoes tend to be stiffer and heavier than running shoes. These provide more support because your foot rolls from heel to toe more slowly than when you run.
  • Cross-training shoes are great for people who have a varied workout routine or play different sports. This is the most versatile athletic shoe, designed to give more support for changes in direction and impact, making them an economical choice. They're heavier and less cushioned than running shoes and not recommended if running is your main mode of training.
  • Specialty shoes exist for weight lifting, cycling, hiking, tennis, basketball, soccer, and more. If you engage in these activities several days per week, consider buying a sport-specific shoe to fit your needs.
  • Lifestyle shoes are not made for athletic activities, even though they are made by the same manufacturers who make running and workout shoes. These shoes have flat soles and a sporty look, but not enough support for workout. They're fine for running errands or casual wear, but don't make them part of your exercise gear.

Finding the Best Running or Walking Shoe
When you get fitted for a new pair of running or walking shoes, go to the experts at a sporting goods store, running store, or even a podiatrist. Ask the expert of your choice to help you evaluate the arch of your foot, of which there are three main types:

  1. Flat-footed folks have low arches and feet that tend to roll inward as you run or walk. Look for a shoe that offers more stability.
  2. High arches often cause the feet to roll outward when walking. Look for a cushioned shoe with greater flexibility to help absorb shock more effectively. Insoles, inserted inside your shoes, can also help to support heels and arches. They can be bought separately by shoe size and needs.
  3. "Normal" arches don't fit into either extreme. Most shoes are made to fit these types.

Additionally, there are three different types of pronation. Pronation, the way that your foot moves after striking the ground (often with the heel and ankle rolling inward for balance) is a normal movement.

  1. Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls excessively inward, which can lead to muscle strains in both your legs and feet. Overpronators also tend to have low arches. Look for "stability" or "motion control" shoes, which are less flexible, have a thicker heel and help decrease excessive pronation.
  1. Underpronation (supination) describes feet that roll outward when running or walking. Underpronators tend to have high arches or "pigeon-toes." Look for shoes with extra cushioning to help absorb the added impact on your foot strikes.
  2. Normal pronation is most common, where the foot pronates normally, but not excessively. Look for stability shoes, which are more flexible than motion control shoes but still have good support.

Dress for Success

Feet First

  • Choose socks that are made of a breathable material. Again, you want your feet to stay dry, so cotton isn't usually the best choice.
  • High-performance socks, including wool, can help with comfort, breathability and blister prevention.
  • Steer away from thin socks, which might not provide enough cushioning. A thick sock might be better—just make sure it's not so thick that your shoes fight tightly.

Shoes

  • Your feet strike the ground thousands of times during walk, and every step you take affects every joint in your body.
  • The right walking shoe will provide cushioning that reduces the impact when your foot strikes the ground, as well as support for the ankles, which helps you avoid injury.
  • Look for walking-specific shoes that are lightweight, breathable, have a thick, flexible sole and good arch support.
  • Keep track of the number of miles you walk. One pair of walking shoes should last about 300-600 miles, assuming you only wear them for walking and not other activities.

Bring on the Layers
In general, these three layers will keep you comfortable in most conditions:

  1. A base layer should be light and breathable. Choose a high performance fabric that will draw sweat away from the skin so it can evaporate and cool you without making you feel wet. Stay away from cottons, as they retain moisture (sweat), which can keep you cold in the winter and hot in the summer. A good cold-weather material is polypropylene; in warm weather, wicking clothing like CoolMax or Dri-FIT works well.
  2. An insulating layer goes on top of your base layer. It adds warmth and provides temperature control. This layer should be easy to remove in case you get too warm.
  3. A protective outer layer goes on top of your insulating layer to protect you from elements like wind, rain, and snow. Choose waterproof fabrics that are made of breathable materials (so your sweat can evaporate).

Last but Not Least

  • A ventilated and/or brimmed hat can protect your head from the sun during the summer.
  • A winter hat will help regulate your body temperature, since one quarter of your body heat escapes through your head.
  • Gloves also help regulate your body temperature.
  • Be sure to protect your skin (and eyes) from damaging rays. If you'll be outside longer than 15 minutes, you should wear sunscreen, even in the winter. Sunglasses are a good idea, too.

    Following these tips should keep you outside comfortably all year long!

Health Fitness Benefits of Walking

  • According to the long-term Nurses' Health Study, which follows the habits and health of 72,000 female nurses, three hours of brisk walking each week (that's just 30 minutes per day) can lower a woman's risk of heart disease by 30% to 40%.
  • A 2001 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise found that sedentary women with high blood pressure reduced their systolic blood pressure and body mass by walking 9,700 steps per day at a self-selected pace for 24 weeks.
  • Harvard researchers looked at 11,000 men and determined that one hour of regular, moderate exercise (equivalent to brisk walking), done five days a week, may cut a man's risk of stroke in half.
  • Consistent activity, like walking, reduces one's risk of hip fracture, according to a study of more than 30,000 men and women ages 20 to 93.
  • A review of 24 studies on aerobic exercise and bone mineral density in women suggests that walking just 30 minutes per day a few times a week is enough to increase bone density by a moderate amount (about two percent) compared to non-exercisers. Walking was the preferred form of exercise by most participants.
  • A study published in the International Journal of Obesity suggested that 30 minutes of walking on most days of the week may be as beneficial for weight loss as 60 minutes of walking (in combination with diet).
  • Researchers from the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center say that simply walking for 15 minutes (or about 2,000 steps) and eating a couple fewer bites of food can help you prevent future weight gain.
  • Without changing diet, a review of pedometer based walking program found that participants who take 2,000 to 4,000 steps per day (that's about 1 to 2 miles) can still expect modest weight loss (about five pounds per year).
  • Sedentary women who engaged in a walking program reported improved mental and emotional satisfaction and a decrease in stress, according to a Journal of Holistic Nursing article published in 2006.
  • Women & Health published another study that measured 128 sedentary, ethnic-minority women. Researchers found that participants who walked more reported increases in positive mental health and well being.
  • Another of 124 sedentary older adults found that those started walking for 45 minutes three times per week for six months performed substantially better on several cognitive tasks than those who did stretching or strengthening exercises. Researchers, whose study was published in Nature, think that their improved cardio-respiratory fitness increased blood flow to the brain, which helped improve brain function.

Fun Walking Fitness Infofootprints and average steps

  • 10,000 steps a day is approximately 5 miles of distance
  • The average stride length is 2.5 feet.
  • If you walk 10,000 steps a day you will burn an additional 2,000-3,500 calories weekly.

Sedentary is defined by less than 5,000 steps per day.walking program chart