First steps to fitness....the power of walking

Would you like to get fitter? I started walking age 48! Of course I walked for 46 years before that but I started to walk to try and get fitter relatively late in life. In reality it’s never too late to start walking and the benefits to both your mental and physical fitness are well researched.

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Perhaps you want to get fitter, and haven’t done any exercise for a while?  Then walking is an excellent start. All you need is a good pair of trainers or walking boots. Look up a walking plan for beginners on the internet or Pinterest and choose one that you feel you can stick to.

Building up slowly will enable you to set goals and achieve them as your stamina builds. You should try to gradually increase both duration and speed. This is important because, as with any exercise, you body will quickly get use to it and the physical gain will be less than when you started. Investing in a fitness wearable to count your steps or using an app on your phone are both great ways to keep you motivated as you either achieve or surpass your daily goal.

Posture is also important, you want to have you shoulders slightly back as if wearing a rucksack, but also relaxed. Your arms should move as well giving you an upper body workout. Tip, your arms will dictate the speed of your legs so swinging your arms faster will cause your legs to move faster.

Try to keep your whole body aligned, hips and knees facing forward. Push off through the toes on your back leg to help build power through your legs. As you improve your duration and power, try to include slopes and hills. Rough terrain helps you improve your balance and can prevent twisted ankles and falls in the future.

On longer distances, anything over a mile or so make sure you drink water and if you are walking for more that two hours snack on a few nuts or cereal bar. Some people practice their walking on a treadmill and this is fine, especially using the up and downhill settings as well as increasing the pace. My own view is it is always better to get outside if you can. The mental health benefits of being outside are well documented and it’s a great way to practice mindfulness if you are not a ‘sit and meditate’ type of person.

Once you are able to walk distances of five miles or so, try doing this within a time frame of 75 minutes, meaning you are doing a 15 minute mile. At this pace your heart rate will be high, giving you a great cardio work out. Perhaps sign up for a local walking challenge to keep you motivated and encourage a friend to join you? Happy walking!