Walking is one of the best forms of exercise because it is inexpensive, can be done practically anywhere and does not require any training or special equipment. A walking routine should include at least five minutes of stretching and be done consistently for best results.

You have probably heard about the benefits of being physically fit. You see commercials about lowering your fat and cholesterol. You hear about the latest fitness trends everywhere you go. Your friends want to lose weight or join a gym. For some, competitive sports is the answer, but you can’t fit regular practices into an already busy schedule. You want an activity that’s easy, doesn’t take too long, but gives you the benefits of an aerobic workout. Here are some questions to test your knowledge about fitness trends:

* You need an activity that doesn’t cost much. What can you do?

* You don’t have much free time, and the time you do have changes from week to week so that sticking to a routine is very difficult. How can you stay fit?

* You want to prevent the possibility of getting diabetes because people in your family have it. What can you do?

* What’s the best way to lower your cholesterol level?

* You’re always hungry and you want to be careful not to eat too much. What’s the best way to reduce your appetite?

* What exercise is practically injury-free?

* What can you do to help increase the length of your life?

* How can you become more heart healthy?

* What can you do to tone and strengthen your muscles?

* If you worry or are stressed out about something, how can you reduce that stress naturally?

* How can you lose weight and keep it off?

* If high blood pressure runs in your family, what can you do to avoid developing it?

* If your hands and feet are always cold due to poor circulation, what can help increase the blood flow?

Test-your-walking-I.Q

If you answer some of these questions by saying “exercise,” then you have been paying attention to the news. And if you answered each question with “walk,” you are a walking genius and you’re right on track. Walking is the most popular exercise in the United States. In fact, more than 73 million people do exercise walking. It’s an inexpensive, natural, and practically injury-free form of exercise. Did you know the average person will walk about 115,000 miles in a lifetime? That is more than four trips around the world.

Getting Started

You’ve decided to give walking a try. After all, you’ve been doing it since you were about a year old. You have perfected it so much by now that you don’t even think about how to walk anymore. It’s an easy exercise: no new rules to learn, no special equipment to buy. You don’t have to gather a team together. All you have to do is get up off your couch and walk for about 20 to 30 minutes three times a week. As with all exercise programs, you will need to start with a few stretches, though. Don’t forget this part because even the best walkers may get sore or injured if their muscles aren’t warmed up. Spend about five minutes stretching. Include your arms, back, and sides in your stretching. When you’re finished walking, spend some more time stretching your muscles. This will increase your flexibility and keep you from getting sore muscles.

You might want to plan a regular time in your schedule for walking (maybe first thing in the morning, right after school, or after dinner). This helps to ensure that you will do it and make it a habit. Find an enjoyable route to walk. Start with a 20-minute walk at a moderate pace and work up to 30 to 45 minutes at a brisk pace. Do this for at least three days a week, but no more than six days a week, using one day to rest your legs. You will be breathing harder and your heart rate will increase, but you should be able to talk to a friend while you are walking. If you find you are too out of breath to talk, you may need to slow down a little.

Walk This Way?

Believe it or not, there are different ways to walk. These include race walking, power or aerobic walking, hiking, sprint walking, and resistance walking. You have probably done most of these types of walks at one time or another, except race walking.

Race walking has a few rules. One foot must always be in contact with the ground and the leg must be straight from the time it strikes the around until it passes under the body. Power or aerobic walking refers to walking done in short spurts to build up stamina during an aerobic walk. Resistance walking is using hills to strengthen the leg muscles. Be careful while going downhill. You will want to walk slower than usual to avoid knee injury and injury to toe nails by having them squeezed to the front of your shoe. Resistance walking is sometimes done by walking on level ground using ankle weights or putting on a backpack; but overall, hills are a better workout.

Shoes Made for Walking

Although walking is almost injury-free, you will want a good pair of shoes if you are going to walk regularly for fitness: sneakers that have shock absorbers in the heel and under the ball of the foot. The shoe should be lightweight, made out of canvas so it can breathe. Choose a shoe that is flexible, yet provides support and stability. Finally, make sure that your shoes fit you snugly but not tightly. This will give your feet more support and keep them from getting blisters.

No doubt about it – a walking workout is a smart way to get fit and stay in shape. Go for it!

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