I’m Barrie, and I warmly welcome you to the sixth post of my bi-weekly blog, Over50andfit.
Walking is something that almost all of us take for granted, which is why it’s probably the most underrated form of exercise. It’s a simple way to trigger a cascade of health benefits. Let’s take a closer look at it.
The benefits of walking include, most importantly, improved health, fitness and mood. And who wouldn’t want to experience all of those? What’s more, it’s a low-impact activity that we do naturally. All you require are cushioned socks and lightweight, supportive and comfortable footwear.
I can personally attest to the benefits of walking. Since being hit by a car a few months ago and braking 10 ribs and vertebrae, slow and steady walking kilometer after kilometer, has been my major form of recovery. Without walking, I would not have recovered nearly as quickly as I have.
How Fast, How Long, How Often?
At what pace should you walk? If you are able to carry on a conversation, you are walking at the correct pace for a beginner. On the other hand, if you are able to sing, then you should pick up your pace. As you become more comfortable with walking, you can increase your pace for about 25% of the duration of the walk. Your heart rate and rate of breathing will also increase. Ultimately, your aim is to exercise for at least 30 minutes five times weekly.
Keeping a Record
Record your walks: time, distance or steps taken. Keeping a records and periodically looking at it is a sure motivator! The favourite method of my wife and I is to record the number of steps we take each day. (Approximately 1200 steps equals 1 kilometre and 2000 steps equals 1 mile.) There ae several devices (Fitness Bands or Fitness Trackers) on the market – the subject of a future blog – which will count the number of steps taken, give heart rate, calories expended, number of minutes of exercise, etc. The simplest and easiest device might be your smart phone, which will record how many steps you have walked and the time taken.
Where to Walk
Should you walk indoors, outdoors or both? Let’s begin with walking outdoors. If you’re just beginning, you might start by walking for 10 minutes at a leisurely pace 3 times weekly. After 2 weeks, you might increase your daily walk to 11 minutes for 2 weeks and subsequently by 1 minute more every 2 weeks until you can walk for 30 minutes, the ultimate goal. These increases are guidelines only and of course can be changed to whatever suits YOU. The generally accepted rule is not to increase the time of your workouts by more than 10%. What if it’s cold outdoors? You could head for a shopping mall – I do this often.
If you prefer to try a treadmill – but have never used one before – consult a trainer. Be familiar with the controls before you begin using it, especially the use of the emergency stop switch. Practice stepping on and off the treadmill. When you are ready to start, do so at a leisurely pace. You may wish to begin by holding onto one of the handrails. Eventually, it is better to walk without using a handrail as you will then be able to walk with a better posture.
Caution: I strongly urge you to consult your family doctor before you begin an exercise program, particularly if you have not exercised for a long period of time. In addition, start slowly and gradually add more time and then intensity.
Please feel free to share your comments and questions.
Make sure to keep hydrated – drink lots of water. Feel good about yourself. You’re doing something that has many benefits.
In my next blog, I will discuss the merits of another form of exercise: indoor cycling.
Yours in fitness,