Walk Your Way to Fitness

Getting fit doesn't need to involve fancy equipment or expensive memberships. One group of experts says if you want to improve your health, you don't need to look any further than your sneakers and the sidewalk outside.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) is reminding Americans this summer that walking is one of the most effective forms of exercise available.  And with the abundance of open trails and paths in our region, walking options are plentiful.

Below are some facts and tips from the AAOS on how you can walk your way to fitness!

  • Walking at a brisk pace on a regular schedule benefits bones, muscles and joints. 
  • Regular walking can also reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and slow the development of arthritis.
  • To see substantial health benefits, physicians with AAOS recommend walking for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. 
  • When walking any distance, a supportive shoe that fits well is important. The best shoes for walking have good arch support and elevate the heel slightly. There should be good heel support and the toe box should be roomy but not too long.
  • Warm up by walking at a normal pace for 5 minutes, then boost your pace so your heart beats faster and your lungs breathe deeper. Keep up the faster pace for about 15 minutes.
  • While walking: swing your arms; keep your head up, back straight, and abdomen flat; point your toes straight ahead; and take long strides, but do not strain. Cool down by walking at your warm-up speed again for 5 more minutes, and do gentle stretching after your walk.
  • Start off by doing this type of walking three or four days a week, with days for rest in between. Keep adding 5 minutes every two weeks as you gradually build strength and endurance.
  • You can give your upper body a workout while walking by carrying one- to-five-pound weights in each hand. Using walking sticks or poles can improve lower body stability, and reduce the stress on your legs, knees, ankles, and feet.
  • Assess your stability on uneven terrain before attempting to walk on paths or trails, and stick to streets or sidewalks unless you feel confident. 
  • Hydration is very important. Walkers should drink one pint of water 15 minutes prior to a walk, and another pint after cooling down, with water breaks every 20 minutes during exertion.  
To learn more about how walking can benefit your cardiovascular health and to experience those benefits firsthand, join the Dignity Health Heart and Vascular Institute at the American Heart Association's Heart and Stroke Walk on Saturday, Sept. 24 at William Land Park. Register online here or email heart@dignityhealth.org for more information.