How to Walk for Beginners

Steps to Take To Start Walking for Fitness and Health

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Congratulations, you have decided it is time to start walking for health, fitness, and perhaps for weight loss. Walking is a great, natural way to achieve the daily physical activity amount recommended for good health.

We will lead you through a program for absolute beginners, with the goal to have you walking comfortably for 30 minutes to an hour, the level of physical activity recommended to reduce risks of heart disease, type II diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

1. Preparing to walk: what you need to do before you begin a walking program. This includes whether you need to get medical advice before starting a walking program, what to wear for walking, and what kind of shoes to wear.

2. Walking Technique: Next, you will learn a good walking technique with proper posture, use of arms and leg motion.

3. Beginner's Walking Schedule: how often to walk, how fast and how far to build up to the level of 30-60 minutes per day.

Preparing to Walk

We begin by getting you ready to head out the door -- or onto the treadmill. All of the advice included is good for walking either indoors or outdoors. To begin, we'll see if your body has any special needs before starting an exercise program. Then it's on to gear-up with clothing and shoes.

When to Get a Medical Check-up Before Starting a Walking Program

Contact your medical provider for a check-up or consultation before you begin your walking program if any of these apply:

  • You have been sedentary for a year or more. Definition of physical inactivity
  • You don't currently exercise and are over age 65.
  • You have been diagnosed with heart trouble.
  • Pregnant
  • High blood pressure.
  • Diabetes
  • You have chest pain, especially when exerting yourself.

What Should You Wear When Walking for Fitness?

What should you wear for fitness walking? Your walking clothing should be comfortable and loose-fitting to allow you to move.

  • Depending on your climate, dress in layers so you may remove a layer as you warm up while walking, and put it back on if you feel cool.
  • If you do not plan to walk up a sweat, a system can be as simple as a t-shirt, light sweater, and windproof jacket.
  • If you sweat while walking, you should invest in CoolMax or polypropylene shirts to wick the sweat away from the body.
  • In cooler climates you may want an insulating layer of polar fleece or wool.
  • Socks should be comfortable, and the modern running socks made from CoolMax or other high-tech fibers are preferable to cotton, as they prevent blisters by keeping the feet drier. Before You Buy Walking Socks
  • A hat is essential to preventing sun exposure or keeping you from losing heat.
  • Sunglasses for outdoor walking prevent UV exposure for your eyes.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Carry keys and other articles in pockets or a hip pack. Pack lightly for most walks and leave the heavy purse at home.
  • Carry water if you plan to be walking for a half hour or more with no water on your route. A hip pack with built-in water bottle holder is convenient.

What Shoes Should You Wear for Walking for Fitness?

Your shoes are your chief walking tool.

  • Fit: Your shoes must fit well, but leave enough room so your feet can expand while walking. Your walking shoes should be a size to a size and a half larger than your dress shoe.
  • Flex: Good walking shoes are flexible. Your foot flexes as you roll through a step from heel to toe. If your shoe doesn't flex with it, you can't get a good walking motion and your feet fight your shoes with each step. See if your shoe bends in the ball of the foot and if you can twist it from side to side. If it is stiff as a board, you need different shoes.
    • Flat: Walking shoes should be flat, with little difference in height between the heel and the ball of the foot. This is one of the biggest difference between a good walking shoe and some running shoe designs. Look for designs that are flatter rather than having a built-up heel.
    • A well-fit pair of running shoes is the best answer for most walkers. Many specialty walking shoes are too stiff and do not incorporate performance characteristics of today's running shoes to prevent overpronation.
    • Replace your shoes every 500 miles.
    • Top Picks for Walking Shoes

    Next Section: Beginners Walking Technique: Your walking posture, stride and arm motion make a big difference.

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