Go the Extra Mile… Literally
The United States Centers for Disease Control recommends at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of combined physical activity each week for adults, especially seniors. This regular physical exercise staves off obesity, regulates heart rate and prevents chronic disease. But people hear “get active,” and they imagine struggling at the gym or running around the neighborhood before a sweaty collapse.
Physical activity is so much easier and more enjoyable than that. The most inexpensive and easily-accessible way to get started is with a regular walking plan. It would seem to defy logic that one of the first things people learn to do can be the secret to lifelong health, but it can be. Aim to get walking now, and see how fast the miles add up.
Get a Checkup Before Starting
A check-up screens for conditions that exercisers need to be aware of, including anemia, high blood pressure and high or low blood sugar levels. If left untreated, these conditions could cause walkers to become dizzy or faint. A doctor or nurse practitioner can also help you set reasonable milestones, such as measurable weight loss and distance goals.
No walking plan will succeed without strong, stable and supportive footwear. Do not walk for exercise in sandals, flip-flops or heels. These shoes do not offer the proper arch support or balance. Trying to exercise in them can lead to falls and even injuries.
The average walker can visit a department store or footwear chain to purchase a basic pair of athletic shoes. Try them on for the best fit. Most senior citizens will want to wear orthopedic shoes for their superior, podiatrist-approved arch and heel support.
Don’t Just Burn Fuel… Consume It
Exercising on an empty stomach is not recommended under any circumstances. Walking without a proper meal first can lead to headaches, dizziness and fainting. Walking in extreme heat without water or while dehydrated can lead to mild heat stroke.
When consumed ahead of time, nutrient-dense and iron-rich foods provide good energy to sustain workouts. Drinking water while walking increases energy and hydration. Enjoying a light, protein-rich snack after a workout replaces vitamins and minerals lost from sweat.
It is so critical to fuel, refuel and replenish ahead of time that there must be a plan for it.
- Invest in a non-plastic, stainless steel, high-grade water bottle.
- Carry fruit and all-natural, organic trail mixes during a walk.
- Save dinner leftovers, then eat a portion of them as lean meals prior to or after a workout.
- Avoid artificially-flavored and colored energy bars, energy drinks and energy powders.
Walking is not the same as jogging or aerobics. It is intended to produce a light sweat at most. According to the Mayo Clinic, the proper walking technique is:
- Hold head high.
- Look forward.
- Keep chin parallel to the ground.
- Tighten stomach muscles slightly.
- Walk smoothly- don’t stomp.
- Swing arms freely with slight bend in the elbow.
- Keep a straight back.
Improper positioning can lead to too much exertion and even falls or injuries. These small adjustments burn more calories, ease joint stress and target the right muscles.
The benefits of walking never wear off, but the excitement can wear down. Motivation and new goals are the keys to continue to go the extra mile. People who are committed to walking can explore the CDC’s Mall Walking program, a walking buddy or a pedometer.
A pedometer is a small device which counts the number of steps wearers make each day. The Journal of American Medicine reported that pedometer users gained 2,000 additional steps a day compared with non-users, and users’ overall physical activity level increased by about a third more than non-users. An exact figure is a powerful point of reference to measure progress and form new goals in a life of walking.
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