Walking as an exercise is a good way to feel better and live longer. Walking for an exercise requires no membership fees or fancy equipment. You don’t have to learn a new skill, because you’ve been walking since you were very young. Walking has no difficult rules to follow; you can do it alone or with a friend.
For most people, a daily brisk walk can provide the same physical and mental rewards as running or bicycling.
Want to get started? All you have to do is put on a pair of comfortable shoes, stand up, stretch your legs, and walk briskly for 30 minutes each day. The age and physical condition of the walker determines the definition of “brisk”. Each person should determine the appropriate rate of walking to achieve the benefits desired. It is always wise to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
The right shoes are important when walking for exercise. Your first step should be to get a comfortable pair of shoes. They should have good support in the heel area and be made from material that will absorb shock well and put a “spring” in your step. The shoes should be lightweight and durable.
Extra cushioning in the heel area and good support of the arch are helpful. The sole of the shoe over the ball of the foot should be flexible enough to bend at a 50 degree angle. This will prevent muscle fatigue caused by stiff soles. Try jogging shoes, walking shoes, or a sturdy pair of crepe-sole shoes.
Feet come in various shapes, and shoes should accommodate them to prevent pressure on specific areas of the foot. When shopping for shoes, you should note that the toes spread during walking; therefore the toe box area should be able to allow for toes to spread. Toes should not be rubbing against the toe area when you walk.
The foot expands as a normal reaction to walking throughout the day. To allow for this normal expansion and elongation, shoes should be fitted during the afternoon.
Walking is considered an “aerobic” exercise. That means that you are increasing your body’s ability to utilize oxygen. Also walking gently elevates your heart rate as measured by your pulse. In doing this, it increases the efficiency of your heart as a pump, and it improves your body’s metabolism. As your physical condition improves, your heart becomes stronger, and you achieve what is called the “training effect”. This means that your heart actually works less because it works more efficiently. Soon, your pulse rate slows down, and your heart is becoming more capable of pumping a larger volume of blood with each stroke and doing it with less effort.