of Exercise Walking
fundamental health benefits of exercise walking are many.
Metabolically, it helps control weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol
levels. A brisk walk can burn up to 100 calories per mile
or 300 calories per hour. Walking is the perfect complement
to a sensible diet to lose weight and keep it off.
Walking improves cardiovascular fitness. As an aerobic exercise,
walking gets the heart beating faster to transport oxygen-rich
blood from the lungs to the muscles. The heart and lungs grow
more efficient with a regular walking regimen, reducing blood
pressure and the resting heart rate. Walking is even a central
element of medical rehabilitation. Recovery from many ailments,
including heart attack, is facilitated by a regular walking
For people with poor circulation to the arms and legs, walking
can increase the size and improve the efficiency of the tiny
vessels that supply blood for cellular respiration. Anyone
diagnosed with poor circulation should see a doctor before
beginning exercise walking.
Psychologically, walking generates an overall feeling of well-being,
and can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress by producing
endorphins, the body's natural tranquilizer. A brisk walk
will relax you and stimulate your thinking.
If you are more than 40 years old and have any problems with
weight, respiration, blood pressure, pulse rate, or cholesterol,
check with your doctor before walking. The same goes for diabetics,
smokers, or people with preexisting injuries or a family history
of heart problems.
ideal walking shoe should be stable from side to side, well-cushioned,
and it should enable you to walk smoothly. Many running shoes
fit all of these criteria well, and for most people are acceptable
for a walking program.
However, there are specialty walking shoes that may work well
for you. These tend to be slightly less cushioned, yet not
as bulky, and lighter than running shoes.
Most important, whether you are wearing a walking or running
shoe, is that it must feel stable to you. Either type of shoe
is acceptable if it works well with your foot mechanics, providing
cushioning and stability.
Shoes should always feel comfortable and fit well in the store.
Don't cut corners on your shoe budget; buying shoes is the
only real expenditure necessary for the sport, so treat your
feet well. Visit the shoe store late in the afternoon, when
your feet are slightly swollen (this is when you'll likely
be walking, anyway).
Wear the same socks to the store that you will wear while
walking. Try on at least four or five pairs of shoes. Put
on and lace both shoes of each pair and walk around for a
minute or two.
Remember that every shoe manufacturer uses a different basic
shoe shape, or "last." Some lasts are shorter or longer than
others of the same size; some fit a wide foot perfectly, while
others are cut for a slimmer foot.
Before buying, check the shoe's quality with the vertical
heel test. Place the shoe on the store's counter and make
sure the heel is straight up when looking at it from the back.
Is the midsole well-connected to the upper? Is the stitching
complete? Check inside the shoe for any irregular bumps.
When the shoes are on your feet, the heel should be snug.
If it slides in the store, it will slide while you are walking.
You should be able to wiggle your toes in the shoe, and there
should be one half to a full thumb's width between the end
of the longest toe on your longer foot and the end of the
shoe's toe box. Make sure your ankles don't roll in the shoes.
If you have bunions or other special considerations, consult
your podiatrist about the best shoe for you. If you have prescription
inserts, substitute your insert for the existing one (most
shoes have a removable insole) to make sure it will fit properly,
Care for Walking
general foot care must be maintained if you plan to subject
your feet to a walking regimen. Wear thick, absorbent socks
(acrylic is preferable to cotton); dry feet well after bathing,
paying special attention to the toes, and use powder before
putting on shoes. Nails should be cut regularly, straight
across the toe.
Podiatrists warn that self-treatment of corns and calluses
with over-the-counter remedies before starting to walk can
do more harm than good. Serious maladies like bunions and
hammertoes absolutely should be evaluated by a podiatric physician
before you begin to walk for aerobic exercise.
If blisters develop, self-treatment by opening the blister
with a sterilized needle and draining the fluid is acceptable.
Do not remove the "roof" of the blister. Cover the treated
blister with antibiotic ointment to guard against infection.
you get going, a series of loosening-up exercises will help
alleviate any muscle stiffness or pulled muscles that may
be ahead of you. Consult your podiatrist for some specific
ways to loosen up the heel cords (Achilles and calf) and thigh
muscles (quadriceps in front and hamstrings in back).
Take five deep breaths for each slow stretch, and hold the
stretched muscle firm without bouncing. After every walk,
stretch again to improve circulation and decrease buildup
of lactic acid, the chemical byproduct that causes muscles
Setting appropriate goals is vital to a successful walking
program. First, make walking a habit. Start slowly, with five
or 10-minute walks three to five times a week. As walks get
longer, their frequency can be adjusted.
Before you know it, you'll be making time for weekly walks
wherever you are. But don't overdo it. Starting too quickly
and getting injured or uncomfortably sore can sour you on
the whole idea before it's had a chance to work its magic
on your mind and body.
Start your walks slowly, and gradually work up to a brisk
speed that will cover a mile in 15 minutes (that's four miles
per hour). Measure a one-mile stretch, record your time, and
see how you improve as the weeks go by.
To get significant benefits from walking, you must eventually
be able to walk 20 minutes at a brisk pace without stopping.
Walks shouldn't last more than an hour. Calculate your week's
total walking time in minutes, then try to increase it by
10 percent each week. A starting regimen should involve walking
at least three times per week, but never exceeding five times
a week. Walking every day denies the body the rest time it
needs to repair minor injuries, and could lead to more serious
American Podiatric Medical Association operates a toll-free
telephone service, 1-800-FOOTCARE (1-800-366-8227),
from which consumers can obtain informative literature on
a variety of foot health topics. The American Academy of Podiatric
Sports Medicine, an affiliate of APMA, may be reached at 1-800-438-3355.
in cooperation with the American Academy of Podiatric Sports