Walking Your Way to Fitness
There are plenty of ways to turn an everyday walk into a stimulating experience. Here are just a few
Make walking fun
Walking can be fun if you turn it into something you enjoy. Remember, regular physical activity can be key to managing your weight. The more fun you have, the more you will walk; the more you walk, the more successful you can be at adhering to your physical activity program. Here are some ways that can make walking enjoyable:
- Be an observer. There’s something to see wherever you may walk. You can look at the style of the houses you pass or what your neighbors plant in their yards. What kind of cars go by? What types of people do you see? This can be a good way to notice what’s out there in the world
- Don’t overdo it. Don’t set yourself up for failure by doing too much too soon. This will leave you sore, frustrated, and discouraged
- Take a gradual approach. Discuss with your healthcare provider and start at a level that feels comfortable, you could work your way up from there. Don’t increase your physical activity too fast, even though you may be enjoying yourself
- Walk with a partner. It can be more fun to walk with a friend and it can help keep you motivated. Knowing that someone counts on you as a walking partner can help you get up and walk when you’d just as soon sit on the couch
Places to walk
You can walk almost anywhere! If you live near a shopping area, try walking there for simple errands such as picking up the paper, magazines, or a quart of milk. Parks can be a great place to watch both wildlife and people. Many high schools let the public use their tracks at certain hours of the day; some people like a track where they can count off the laps as they go! Try planning a walk through a town’s historic district to look at the older buildings or take a walk through a neighborhood known for its gardens or holiday light displays. Some cities have bridges with pedestrian walkways that offer beautiful views and cool breezes in hot weather. You can walk in shopping malls no matter what the weather is like outside. In many parts of the country, mall walkers go early in the morning and walk alone or in groups.
If you travel, walking can be a great way to get to know a new place. Many cities offer walking tours. Hotel staff can often recommend a scenic walking route and Web sites like walkjogrun can suggest local walks wherever you are.
Whether you are walking near your home, job, or in a new place, be sure to choose a route that is safe. Be aware of traffic and pick routes with good lighting where there are other people around.
It can be fun to go on special walks in new places. For everyday walks, try to pick convenient routes near your home or job; it is usually easier to fit in walks that you can do nearby.
Dressing for walking
Wear comfortable clothes when you go walking or perform other physical activity as part of the program you developed with your healthcare provider. Some fabrics absorb sweat, while others can pull sweat away from your skin. Some synthetic fabrics breathe and keep you dry by “wicking” away the sweat, allowing it to evaporate quickly so you don’t feel uncomfortable during physical activity. Cotton absorbs sweat and can feel heavy and wet as you increase your level of physical activity. Try not to wear clothes made from rubber- or plastic-based materials; these materials prevent sweat from evaporating and keep you too warm.
Shoes can be important; a good pair of shoes is usually well worth the money. You could go to a sporting goods store, try on several brands, and pick a pair that feels the best. Good shoes support your feet, keep you from tiring, and reduce the risk of injury. Socks with good cushioning can also keep your feet comfortable.
Weather can be tricky. If the weather is too hot (above 90 degrees) or too cold (below zero), you may want to take your activity indoors—though, some dedicated walkers walk in nearly any weather. Consult with your healthcare provider.
Try to wear layers in cold weather and remove layers if you feel hot. Also try to wear a hat, as much of the body’s heat is lost through the head. If your hands get too cold, you can wear mittens; they will keep your hands warmer than gloves.
In hot weather, watch out for heat-related injuries. You can walk in the morning or evening to avoid the hottest parts of the day and wear light clothing. Trapping body heat in hot weather can be dangerous. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after physical activity.