Walking is a great form of exercise which can help reduce isolation and improve mood: it’s low impact, free, accessible and a great activity to do with friends or family. If walking is your main form of exercise, you’ll want to heed these tips from wellness consultant and trainer-to-the-stars Ashley Borden, author of the book Your Perfect Fit: What to Wear to Show Off Your Assets / What to Do to Tone Up your Trouble Spots.
Is there a correct way to walk? Borden says absolutely. Here are a few pointers:
- Check your alignment from your feet to the tip of your head.
- Make sure you are rolling through your feet as you walk.
- Your knees should be slightly bent, your belly button pulled in (i.e. using your abdominal muscles), your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, and your heart lifted toward the sky (not hunching over).
- Keep your eyes forward on the horizon.
What to Wear
Proper footwear is key for walking. “It’s worth a trip to a specialty athletic shoe store to have someone watch you walk and fit you for a correct pair of shoes based on your foot’s arch,” Borden says. (Read “If the Shoe Fits.”)
“Invest in some workout wear that you feel good in,” she adds. “Tights, sports bras and the proper tops can help reduce chaffing and keep you dry and comfortable during your workout.”
While all exercise is good exercise, if you’re looking to get a good aerobic workout (and your doctor has cleared you for this type of exercise), you’ll want to aim for your target heart rate during your walks.
“If your goal is to burn fat and calories, you need to get your heart rate into your fat burning zone,” Borden explains. “You can find your target heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 and then multiplying that number by 0.65. For example if you are 67, you take 220 minus 67, or 153 and multiply that by 0.65 for a target heart rate of 99. That will be the low end of your fat burning zone.” To make things easier, she suggests investing in a heart-rate monitor.
While hills are a great way to raise your heart rate, you’ll want to avoid them if you have ankle, knee or hip issues. “Power walking a moderate hill is a great way to get your heart rate up without the impact on your body,” Borden says. “When going downhill, if it’s safe, it’s best to walk in a wide S pattern from side to side to take the stress off the knees.”
Stay Motivated & Safe
To stay motivated and safe on your walks, Borden offers the following tips:
- Pre-schedule your walks in advance so you aren’t as tempted to overbook and skip them. (Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days.)
- Plan an alternative route in case of bad weather (such as walking in the mall).
- Track your distance and/or time with each walk, and set goals for future walks.
- Walk with a friend or dog for added safety and companionship.
- If you’re walking after dusk, wear reflective gear.
- Always carry water and a cell phone.
- If you’re walking alone, leave a note or tell someone exactly where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.
Armed with this expert advice, you can turn walking into a fun and productive workout!