GET STARTED with Physical Activity – Walking
By Ruben Guerena Physical Activity Instructor – Sanoviv Medical Institute
If you read last week’s post, now you understand the benefits of physical activity. The GET STARTED fitness program was designed thinking of you. That’s right! Even if you have never exercised a day in your life or if you used to exercise regularly in a gym, but it’s been a while since you stopped going, everybody can and should be physically active. You just need to know what and how much you can do. Just make sure before you begin the GET STARTED fitness program to obtain approval from your physician if any of the following apply to you:
- Sedentary for a year or more.
- You don’t currently exercise and are over age 65.
- You have been diagnosed with heart trouble.
- High blood pressure
- You have chest pain, especially when exerting yourself
- You often feel faint or have severe dizzy spells
- Other medical conditions
There is one more thing I ask of you before you start; please make sure that the two most important parts of your team are ready for this. What team? You may ask yourself. Well, I am talking about your body and mind. Because this journey will definitely be easier if you feel your body and mind are ready. Make sure you take your time and prepare your team so either one won’t quit. Are you ready? Ok, so let’s GET STARTED!
Since the GET STARTED fitness program is all about safe training, we won´t ask you to run a mile on your first day out. Let’s keep it simple, the first step on your way to a happier and healthier “you,” will be WALKING. If you are not much of a walking person and the most walking you do a week is when you go out to check the mail or get the paper, then this is a good time to have that talk with your team (body and mind), and tell them that at first it may not be fun for either of them, but this will change as you slowly progress. The benefits you will get out of walking will be worth the effort. Here are a few tips that will help you to GET STARTED.
- Make sure you choose the right time of day for your walk, whether to walk alone or with a companion or group
- Whether you walk indoors or outdoors, make sure you wear comfortable clothes and use the proper footwear.
- Be sure to drink from 8 to 16 oz. of water prior to your workout and to take a water bottle with you so you are always well hydrated. This is especially important in hot weather.
- For some additional fun, create an exercise playlist for your iPod™ or other device. It may help to have music playing as you take your walk, but make sure the volume isn’t too high as it is important to be aware of your surroundings, especially if you decide to walk outdoors. (One great safety tip is to put the headphone or ‘earbud’ in only one of your ears at a time.)
The following are tips on proper walking techniques:
Stand up straight. Tuck in your behind and rotate your hip forward slightly. This will keep you from arching your back.
- Do not lean forward or lean back. Leaning puts strain on the back muscles.
- Do not look down; keep your chin up (parallel to the ground); keep your eyes looking forward approximately 20 feet ahead.
Arms should swing naturally with each step and should be bent at the elbow at a 90 degree angle. If you are new to this technique, your arms might start getting fatigued very easily. Try this next time, keeping your arms bent for 5-10 minutes, and then lowering them to recover. As soon as you feel rested, raise them again. The bent arms should swing comfortable and naturally at about waist level. Your hands should be relaxed and loosely closed never clenched. Clenching your fists can raise your blood pressure and it is also a waste of energy.
The movement of the lower half of the body is most difficult to explain but it’s also the most important. The first thing is having a good walking stride and one that avoids over-striding, or taking longer steps to increase speed. Over-striding is inefficient and it is potentially harmful. Don’t worry too much if you are not able to have the perfect stride at the beginning, this is usually due to the inflexibility of the hips. Flexibility can be improved by consistently stretching the front of the hips, thighs and lower back, and for most people, simply doing the technique will help considerably.
The walking step is a rolling motion.
- Strike the ground first with your heel.
- Roll through the step from heel to toe.
- Push off with your toe.
- Bring the back leg forward to strike again with the heel.
- Flexible shoes will ensure you are able to roll through the step.
- If your feet are slapping down rather than rolling through the step, your shoes are likely too stiff.
- At first, your shin muscles may tire and be sore until they are strengthened.
Ok, so how much time or distance would be ok to start out with? That is totally up to your health and fitness level. So let´s say you have never exercised before and you have one or more of the conditions listed earlier, I would suggest that you start walking from 2-5 minutes, 3 times a week and try to increase your walking time by 1-2 minutes each week and see how you feel.
If you feel it´s too much, the just stick to the 2-5 minute walks until you feel ready to increase your walking time. Even though at first your walking pace will not be fast, it is very important that you determine your maximum heart rate. You can buy a heart rate monitor and wear it during your exercise for increased accuracy and precision.
It is very important to remember that exercise is only one part of being healthy. If at any time during a training session, you suffer any abnormal discomfort or injury, we urge you to stop your activity and seek professional medical attention. All the information shared in this blog is intended to give you a better understanding about personal health and fitness. Results may vary from person to person, depending on age, gender, family medical history, personal medical history and current health status.