Walking is a great way to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, improve mood and trim your waistline. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says adults need at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. These are activities such as brisk walking, water aerobics, riding a bike and pushing a lawn mower.
Moderate intensity means your heart rate should be elevated, you should be breaking a sweat, and talking in regular sentences should be difficult. Aerobic activity or “cardio” means that you are breathing hard and your heart is beating faster. The recommended total of aerobic activity can be broken up throughout the week, as long as you do 10 minutes of moderate intensity at a time.
For example, a 10 minute brisk walk, three times per day, five days per week will give you 150 minutes.
Stretching is a great way to improve your flexibility, reduce risk of injury and improve performance. Taking a few minutes before and after walking will not only make walking more effective, but will make it much more fun. I ran Division I track in college, and stretching was a big part of everyday practice. As my stretching and flexibility improved, so did my running.
|Start with a dynamic stretching exercise such as walking lunges. Begin with five repetitions on each side, progressing to 15 repetitions. A dynamic stretching exercise such as lunges will not only stretch your quadriceps and hip flexors, but warm up your muscles and increase blood flow to your muscles.
|Next stretch your calf muscles. Push against a wall with your legs positioned like the picture. The harder you push, the more stretch you will feel. Start with holding the stretch for 15 seconds at a time. Progress to holding the stretch for one minute on each leg.
|The third stretch is for your hamstring muscles. Position yourself on the ground like in the picture. The key for this stretch is to keep your back straight and feel the stretch in your legs. Many people make the mistake of rounding their back and shoulders. It’s not about how far you can reach, but how much you feel the stretch. Start with holding for 15 seconds on each leg and progress to one minute.
|Next stretch your shoulders. With each step you take, your arms swing opposite your legs. Your legs will actually follow your arms, and the quicker you move your arms, the quicker you will walk. It’s important to stretch your arms, shoulder and back. Start with holding for 15 seconds on each arm and progress to one minute
|The last stretch is for your obliques. These are the muscles that wrap around your belly and help with breathing. This stretch will help warm up your breathing muscles and prepare you for moderate-intensity walking. Again, start with a 15 second hold and progress to one minute on each side.
Now that you have completed these five stretches, you’re ready to get out there and start walking!