When you decide to start exercising, it’s best to start with a walking program. Walking is gentle, low impact, simple and easy. We walk on a daily basis to get from place to place, so walking, as an exercise should be just as simple. Even if you are out of shape, overweight and haven’t exercised in years walking is great workout. It warms up the muscles, circulates the blood, increases oxygenation, reduces stress, and burns calories. Therefore starting a walking program is one step towards better health.

What you Need-
Most people already own the equipment needed to start walking, however its best to be fully prepared to avoid the risk of injuries such as blisters, muscle pain and strains. A good pair of walking shoes is vital. Comfortable sneakers with proper arch support, a firm heel, and thick and flexible soles are needed to absorb shock. Wear comfortable loose fitting clothes to walk. Bright colors and reflective tape should be worn when walking at night. Dress for the weather, wear layers when its cold, a jacket when its windy or rainy. Clothing material should allow perspiration to evaporate, meaning rubberized materials should be avoided.

Proper Technique-
Very rarely will someone not know how to walk, however due to excessive weight, poor posture and muscle atrophy some peoples walking gait and stance may be altered from what is proper. Therefore its best to learn proper posture and gait before starting your walking program to correct any mistake. When walking its important to hold your head high, with your shoulders back. Keep your chin parallel to the ground and focus your line of sight 15-20 feet in front of you to be able to see on coming obstacles. As you swing your arms at your sides (or bent up in front of you) your shoulders and arms should move naturally and freely. Tighten your abdominals and tuck your pelvis under your torso. Feet should be parallel to each other and shoulder width apart. Now with smooth movements put one foot in front of you and as your foot touches the ground roll from your heel to toe avoiding hitting the ground too hard as you come down. Now that you have your equipment and the basic technique you can start your walking program.

Start your walking program-
Always start with a warm up. This will get your muscles warmed up and your blood circulating. Walk at a slow pace for approximately 5 minutes as you steadily increase your pace. Once you feel warm, then you should stretch. Stretching old muscles can lead to injury. Its important to stretch all the major muscles groups especially in the lower body such as the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and iliotibial muscles. After stretching you can begin waling. Start slow and steady. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Set your own pace and only go as far and as fast as your body allows you to. A brisk pace increases your breathing rate and heart rate to burn calories. Start with a 10-minute walk one time a day. Then increase it to 15 minutes and continue to increase it over the next couple of weeks until you are up to 30-60 minutes several times a week. As you increase the intensity of your program, you can include uphill walking as well as off road terrain. To measure the intensity of your workout you can manually or digitally check your heart rate. By knowing your heart rate you can maximize your efforts to get a really intense workout. Your heart rate will also indicate if you are overdoing it to the point at which an injury can occur. Manual heart rate can be checked on the wrist (radial artery) or neck (carotid artery). Digital heart rate monitors can be worn under your shirt and on your wrist like a watch. Every walking session should be finished with a cool down period. This reduces the stress on the heart, muscles and body. Walk slowly for 5 minutes to slow down your heart rate and breathing until it returns to normal. Then repeat your stretches to reduce lactic acid build up in the muscles.
A walking program will keep you health, active and fit. If you want to lose weight, mange your weigh or just get healthier walking is the best way to do it.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Labdar graduated with a BA in exercise science and has worked in the medical field since. Her focus is alternative medicine and how it interacts and works in conjunction with traditional medicine.
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