Step by Step: Walking for Fitness
Need to start exercising? What could be easier than walking? Fitness walking reaps as many rewards as other physical activities, and you don't need special equipment or training.
The Basics of Fitness Walking continued...
Intensity: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning relaxed
and 10 thoroughly exhausted, Stein advises starting a walk at level 2 or 3,
working up to level 6 to 8, and then cooling down to a 2. "The
recommendation is the same for everyone," he says, "because as you get
more and more fit, you actually end up having to walk faster or steeper to keep
that 6 to 8 up."
Form: Stein says it doesn't matter whether someone is
swinging his or her shoulders or walking straight from the hip, as long as
they're comfortable and have the right intensity. Hoffmann, however, says it's
best to have elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, the arms swinging freely so that
they come up to about chest level, the fingers curled into a loose fist, and
the feet moving forward at a brisk pace. "If your hands are just dangling
at the sides, you're probably not walking fast enough to get any heart rate
increase," says Hoffmann, who notes that the extremely sedentary and
overweight can begin an exercise plan with a stroll and work up to a quicker
Mileage: Many guidelines give recommendations on time
and intensity, so distance may not necessarily be a factor. On the other hand,
some walking events and campaigns with specific distance requirements have been
known to be very motivating. For example, Corbin says children have loved
digital pedometer programs, which have enabled them to keep track of steps
during the day. Students who take a certain number of steps a day for at least
five days a week for several weeks receive a President's Council Activity
Award. Volkssporting groups have also given honors to walkers of all ages that
have achieved particular distances.
Walking Through Life
Putting one foot ahead of the other may yet be the easiest form
of exercise because it can readily be incorporated into daily life. Various
sources, including the AHA, the AARP, and the NASPE, have provided the
following tips, which could make fitness walking seemingly effortless whether
you're doing it for love or against love handles.
- Go out for a short walk before breakfast, after dinner, or both.
- Walk to the corner store instead of driving.
- Instead of asking someone to bring you a drink, get up off the couch and
get it yourself.
- Walk instead of watching TV.
- See neighbors.
- Walk the dog.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or get off a few floors early and
walk the remaining flights.
- Walk down the hall to speak to someone at the office rather than using the
- Conduct a meeting with co-workers while taking a walk.
- Walk around your building for a break during the work day or during