Walk your way to better health

October 5, 2012

Arthritis, Cancer, Diabetes, Weight issues

Walking is great for people of all ages and for almost any fitness level.

by Cynthia J. Fagyas — 

Getting fit does not have to take up a lot of your time and money. Walking is one of the easiest ways to get in shape — just 30 minutes, five days a week, can help dramatically improve your health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis and some cancers.

Walking is great for people of all ages and for almost any fitness level. It does not even require any special equipment, aside from a comfortable pair of shoes. Strolling around the mall, hiking through a park or walking your dog in the neighborhood are activities that can help you complete a 30-minute, five-day-a-week plan.

Whether you are by yourself or in a group, the following health and safety tips can make for a successful walking workout:

Warm up and cool down. Walk slowly, marching in place and moving your arms to warm up. Stretching your arms, legs and back also is important. At the end of your walk, repeat these stretches.

Start out gradually. Build up speed as you go along. A good rule to follow is the 10 percent rule: only increase your walking distance by 10 percent a week.

Drink enough water. Whether it is cold or warm outside, drinking water is still very important. Drink eight ounces of water about 15 minutes before a strenuous walk. If it is hot or dry, also drink six ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during your walk. After a strenuous walk, drink at least two cups of water for every pound of sweat you lose. Weigh yourself before and after your walk.

Listen to your body. Stop if you feel nauseous or dizzy, or have unusual pain in your chest or elsewhere. In such a case, seek medical attention immediately.

Think safety first. Use paths and sidewalks, whenever possible. If you use headphones, keep the sound low enough to allow you to hear horns, oncoming traffic or voices. Do not walk after dark, and face oncoming traffic so you can see drivers and they can see you. Be aware of all traffic signs and signals.

If you are pressed for time, try two 15-minute walks instead of one 30-minute walk. Staying motivated and committed to your walking routine is important. Walking with a buddy or in a group can also be fun and help keep you on track.

 

Cynthia J. Fagyas is with AARP Arizona in Phoenix. To find out more about AARP’s walking program and other walking tools and tips, visit www.aarp.org. 866-389-5649 or 602-262-5165.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 2, April/May 2007.

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