Walk Your Way to Health

Probably the most essential aerobic exercise for the overall well being of the human body is walking.  Unfortunately, this is the one activity that most people don’t practice enough.  Walking lowers (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and increases (HDL or “good”) cholesterol.  It helps manage blood pressure and diabetes, and reduces your risk for either condition. Brisk walking also releases endorphins, which keep you emotionally balanced and feeling optimistic.  Walking trims the waistline by subtly strengthening the core, while also strengthening the muscles and bones in the entire body.  Walking is also the form of exercise least likely to lead to injury, particularly if you walk on a footpath that is relatively clear.  For maximum spiritual, emotional and physical benefits, take a walk outdoors, surrounded by nature.

The most important thing to keep in mind when starting a walking regimen is to wear the right shoes. Look for solid arch support, a firm heel, and soles that are both thick and flexible enough to cushion your feet, absorb shock and allow for proper mobility. If you’re really serious about walking at least a mile daily, you will definitely need a pair of good quality running shoes.  Get them at a high-end athletic store and make sure you get fitted professionally.

Be sure to stretch gently before and after a long walk, particularly the hamstrings and the muscles of the ankles and feet. A few ankle rotations after a long walk will help relieve the tension built up around the ankle joint.

Using a pedometer can help you keep track of the number of steps you are taking, the distance that you have walked, and even the amount of calories and fat that your are burning while walking.  This useful tool can help motivate you to meet the goals that you set for your regimen.

The best time to take a walk is in the morning or early evening, after your morning and/or evening meal.  The regular practice of a nightly one-hour walk right after dinner, as practiced in many European countries, is an excellent aid to digestion, weight-loss and improved sleep.