By Chrissy MacDonald
If you’ve been in hibernation all winter avoiding icy sidewalks and snow drifts, now there’s no excuse. It’s time to get outside. Spring is finally here!
It’s been a long cold and snowy winter here in Nova Scotia. Now the grass is showing some green and tiny buds are forming on the trees. I’m finished with the snow shoes – finally.
Walking is a great way to get in shape. Since walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it can help increase bone density and help prevent osteoporosis. Walking is a good way to lose weight since every mile you travel burns about 100 calories. Think of that as a medium cookie or half a chocolate bar. Since metabolism is boosted after exercise, your body will burn calories more efficiently after a walk.
Whether you enjoy a leisurely stroll in the evening or walking through the malls, walking is a great exercise. Any type of walking is enjoyable and contributes to active living. Fitness walking or speed walking is more vigorous. When you breathe harder, it gives your heart and lungs a workout.
Here are a few ideas to help make your fitness walking more efficient.
- Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes. If you have knee or ankle issues, it’s especially important to have good support.
- Warm up by walking slower for the first five or ten minutes, then pick up the pace in the middle of the walk, and end your walk with a cool down or slower pace. If you get calf pain after walking, warming up will help prevent this.
- When picking up the pace, make your strides faster instead of longer.
- Drink water before and after your fitness walks. If you are going for a long walk, bring a water bottle.
- Pay attention to your breathing and keep it controlled. Try breathing with your steps –in with two or three steps – out with two or three steps (depending on how fast you are going).
- Keep your posture upright. Relax shoulders. Swing arms forward and back. Don’t use ankle or hand weights which throw the body off balance and makes it hard on the joints. Do strength training separately.
- Eat a healthy diet with a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Stay away from high protein, low fat or any deprivation fad diets. A healthy balanced diet will help maintain a healthy body and provide energy for exercise.
- Incorporate some simple stretches after your walk. Speed walking tightens the hamstring muscles in the back of the legs. A good stretch is to lie on your back, put a belt under your foot, extend the leg and feel a gentle stretch behind the thigh without pulling behind the knee. Hold for about 20 seconds and then do the other leg.
- To stay motivated to walk for exercise, get together with a friend for a walk instead of talking over coffee. Or take your backpack and do a few errands.
- Check with your doctor before you start any new exercise including fitness walking.
Walking is a great way to stay in shape and enjoy the fresh Spring air. And it makes you feel good. Happy trails!