Best Walking Practices
Walking is a good form of exercise with many health benefits, including:
- Boosting energy.
- Helping to strengthen your bones.
- Helping your heart more circulate blood and deliver oxygen and nutrients to your organs.
- Reducing stress, which can produce a more restful night's sleep.
Doctors often recommend walking for 30 minutes, three times a week. However, if you have health problems or have not exercised in quite some time, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a walking exercise regimen.
Tips for proper walking
- Proper footwear: The first key to proper walking is wearing comfortable shoes. Walking shoes should have arch support and allow enough room for the toes to wiggle, but they should not pinch or rub. Socks should be worn to protect the feet and keep them dry. Synthetic socks are best because they dry quickly and keep moisture away from the foot. Some socks also have a padded heel for additional support.
- Warm up: When beginning a walk, it is important to warm up by walking at a slow pace for the first five minutes. By allowing your muscles to warm up prior to starting a more rigorous pace, you can reduce your risk of injury.
- Walking posture: Throughout the walk be sure to maintain good posture and breathe naturally. Your neck and shoulders should be relaxed and your torso should be upright with abs tightened and elbows at 90 degrees. Keep your arms close to your body and swing them forward and backward, but do not let your hands cross your body as this will slow you down.
- Proper stride: When you walk, your heel should make contact with the ground first and you should roll your weight through the center of your foot to your toe and then push off from the toe to take your next step. Try to keep an even stride and a steady pace. You can increase your speed, but do so gradually. When increasing your pace, focus on using the flexibility in your hips to take quicker steps as opposed to longer strides.
- Cool down: Be sure to finish your workout with a cool down by walking at a slow pace for about five minutes. A cool down can help to prevent muscle soreness and injuries.
- Pain awareness: If you feel pain at any time during your walk, slow down or stop walking until the pain subsides. Do not fight through the pain, as it may be a sign of an injury and continuing to walk can make the condition worse. If the pain persists or is severe, contact your doctor.
After-walk home care
After a walk, it is important to take a few minutes to stretch. Stretching can help to improve flexibility and prevent injuries. If your feet are sweaty, either change into a clean, dry pair of socks, or wash and dry your feet. Also, be sure to check your feet for any blisters or sores you may have gotten while walking, and treat them appropriately.
If your feet are swollen, soak them in warm water for five minutes and then in cool water for another five minutes. This should help to relax the feet and reduce swelling. For sore or tired feet, a foot massage can help relieve tension. Lotion can also be applied to prevent dry skin.
For more information about proper walking techniques or foot care, consult your doctor.