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Walking: The ultimate exercise

Walking 101

Even though you’ve been walking almost all of your life, you may benefit from a brush-up on technique and shoe buying. Walking the wrong way or in the wrong shoes can cause fatigue, muscle strain or injury.

  • Keep your head straight (not tilted to either side) and chin parallel to the ground, shoulders level and loose, upper back erect, stomach in, and hips level and directly under your shoulders.
  • Don’t overstride; take natural steps.
  • Swing your arms freely from the shoulders and slightly across your body.
  • Buy your walking shoes in the afternoon. Why? Your feet can swell by half a size over the course of a day.
  • Look for a shoe with moderate cushioning.
  • Make sure the sole of the shoe bends easily at the ball of the foot.
  • Look for a shoe with a rigid heel that doesn’t bend when you press on it.

Walking is the ultimate exercise. It’s something you already know how to do. It’s not overly demanding physically. It requires very little equipment to participate. It can be done almost anywhere, anytime. And it can help prevent or reduce the risk of various health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease and osteoporosis.

To reap the health rewards of walking, you don’t even have to walk at top speed. In fact, regular strolls at a pace of three miles per hour can reduce the risk of heart disease by raising levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.

The problem with most exercise programs is the high dropout rate. So read the following tips on how to fit walking into your everyday schedule and keep your motivation level high.

  • Recruit a friend to walk with you. Companionship will make your walks more enjoyable and help both of you stick to your program.
  • When taking a bus, get off a few blocks before your stop and walk the rest of the way.
  • Listen to music or books on tape to help pass the time.
  • Start a lunchtime walking program at work.
  • Pick a time of day and stick to it. If you’re a morning person, start your day with a walk. If you’re an evening person, squeeze in your walk before dinner.
  • At the office, hand-deliver a memo instead of using interoffice mail.
  • When driving, park some blocks from your destination.
  • Find out if your local YWCA or American Heart Association branch offers a community walking program.
  • For a change of pace or when the weather isn’t ideal, head to a nearby mall.
  • Walk in a scenic place, such as a park or other area that’s pleasing to the eye and the spirit.
  • Ask members of your women’s group, bridge club or other social organization to join you on a walk before or after meetings.
  • Challenge yourself to come up with new ways to make walking a part of your daily life.

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