Autumn is great for walking, and starting a fitness program

A walking program is easy to do, doesn’t need any membership or expensive equipment and can be done almost anywhere.

For people who want to get active, there are many possible reasons to stumble out of the starting gate.

They may not know what to do, how much to do, or they may be worried about which exercise is right for them.

And then there’s the fall weather, which is the most common road-block to outdoor activity: “I would like to go out walking, but the weather is so bad.”

Here then are some tips to get you moving this fall.

A walking program is easy to do, doesn’t need any membership or expensive equipment and can be done almost anywhere.

If you have a medical condition or if you are unsure of your suitability to participate in a regular walking program, consult with your doctor. But don’t assume that you aren’t able to start walking if you do have medical issues.

Regular walking can help control and improve many conditions, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and musculoskeletal problems.

Seek out proper shoes. Since this is the only equipment you’ll need, pay attention to the fit and quality of your shoes. Wear the type of socks you’ll wear when walking when you purchase your shoes.

Shoes should have good arch support with stiff material to support the heel when walking and prevent wobbling.

More expensive doesn’t always mean better, but don’t skimp either.

Start with 15 to 20 minutes each walk and progress gradually by adding five minutes every week or two until you are happy with the duration of your walks. You should feel refreshed after each walk.

Warm up before you start your session and stretch when you are finished. Warm up by walking at a slow or normal walking pace for five minutes before picking up the tempo of your walking or hiking.

At the end of your session hold all your stretches for 20 to 30 seconds, don’t bounce or rock, and don’t stretch to the point of pain – it should feel good.

If you are walking for fitness, then you should walk at a pace that challenges you and elevates your heart rate, but don’t overdo it. Beginners generally should aim for 50 to 60 per cent of their age-predicted maximum heart rate. In other words, take 220 minus your age and multiply that by 50 per cent.

If you are a beginner and you can’t talk and carry on a conversation while you are exercising, you are probably working too hard.

Deep, relaxed breathing should be done from the diaphragm (belly breathing), and not by shrugging the shoulders and rib cage up.

Walking technique is also very important. With each stride, gently swing your arms from front to back and not side to side. Keep your head up, back straight and abdomen flat.

Point your toes straight ahead and make each stride a comfortable distance so you don’t over-stride. This will help you to avoid placing excessive force on the heel or rotating your pelvis, hips or knees.

If it’s cold out, dress warmly, and layer your clothing, so that you can shed one layer in case you start to get too hot. It may be a good idea to carry water if you’re walking very long distances.

Stay motivated. To increase your fitness, add a route with some hills or changes in terrain. Or alternate routes on different days of the week.

A pedometer can help track the distance you’ve walked or the number of steps you’ve taken.

Watching your improvement over time is a terrific source of motivation.

Many people walk with a buddy or in groups for support and motivation and many listen to music to keep them going, but paying attention to the sights and sounds around you is great, too.

The most important thing this time of year is to not let the weather be a deterrent to walking. Buy a good rain-coat, then there’s never an excuse to avoid walking.

 

Kerry Senchyna holds a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology and is owner of West Coast Kinesiology in Maple Ridge (westcoastkinesiology.com).

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