How to Begin a Walking Exercise Program


For human beings, walking is the natural form of locomotion. It is a low-risk, low-impact activity that can be done almost anywhere, by almost anybody (including many who have disabilities), in most environments, and within a reasonable timeframe.

Walking uses a heel-to-toe motion so the foot strike at landing is at the heel and the push-off is at the end of the big toe. This action dissipates the force of impact with the ground over the widest possible foot area. The foot rolling forward generates horizontal momentum for forward movement. The advancing foot lands before the rear foot leaves the ground, ensuring that one foot is always in contact with the ground. Forward motion of this type minimizes the impact of landing.

For beginners, walking is an effec­tive introduction to physical activity. Walking can be manipulated to meet a variety of objectives. In addition to being an entry point into exercise, it can be a lead-up conditioner for other types of activity. Or it can be the end product for developing and main­taining physical fitness. This can be accomplished through brisk walking or variations such as speed walking, power walking, and race walking.

Millions of people are walking for health and fitness. More than 10,000 walking events are held annually. These include walk-a-thons, fun walks, and competitive race walks. More than 6,500 walking clubs are scattered throughout the country. Some of these feature hiking and orienteering (using a map and com­pass to find the path between two land marks).

Slow walking speeds produce substantial health benefits but result in a minimal increase in fitness level. Higher speeds result in improvements in both health and fitness.

Data collected from more than 72,000 nurses showed a strong inverse (or negative) association between walking and the risk for coronary heart disease. The women who walked briskly or regularly participated in other vigorous aerobic exercises had substantial reductions in the incidence of coronary events compared to women who were primar­ily sedentary. If enhancement of health is the major objective of exercise, walking—even slow walking—fits the bill nicely. If, however, the major objective is to improve physical fitness, fast walking is a satisfactory activity. The bonus for those who engage in exercise for the purpose of fitness is that they achieve the health benefits simultaneously.

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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