The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

JANUARY  2012  2011

The People News
Special Report






Benefits of Walking:
Exercise on a Budget

by Alexandra Edwards

Year round Americans happily indulge in all the tempting foods found in the grocery stores, diners and restaurants. Those extra few pounds gained during the festivities of the final two months are often enough to put the scale way over the top. Come January, panic sets in and suddenly we become health conscious, going on special diets and spending hundreds of dollars on fitness equipment or gym memberships.

Retail stores will be heavily advertising various kinds of expensive exercise equipment like treadmills, weight benches, exercise bikes and the like, to encourage sales. Come Spring, much of that equipment will no doubt end up at garage sales for a fraction of the price because the purchaser has quit exercising and is tired of the clutter. Fitness centers and gyms will be offering good deals on annual memberships, knowing only few will be taking full advantage of the facilities for the duration of  the year.

Alexandra Edwards

Exercising and getting fit does not have to be expensive, they say the best things in life are free, and when it comes to health, it's the natural things that always seem to be most beneficial.

Walking is natural, it is simple and requires no instruction. Walking can be done any time of day, alone or with a friend, outdoor or indoor, and what is more, the only real cost is a good, comfortable pair of walking shoes.

Walking is not only a great way to burn calories and lose weight, it tones the muscles in calves, thighs and stomach as well as being a good cardiovascular workout. Walking can improve posture, relieve stress, and boost spirits. Breathing in clean fresh air while being closer to nature is yet another great benefit of walking.

Motivation is probably the hardest part of exercise walking but once started it can soon become part of your daily routine, especially if done at the same time each day.

When walking directly from your home and around the block is not possible, choose a park trail or residential subdivision in close proximity, that way you are more likely to stick to the habit.

For those that have had little exercise in the past, take it slow, start by walking a circuit for just 5-10 minutes at a normal, comfortable pace. After a week or so, increase to 15 minutes, gradually working your way up to 40 minutes of walking for four or five days each week. It is important that you don't overdo it, pushing too hard at the beginning is one of the main reasons for giving up an exercise routine.

Once a routine is established, it is recommended to walk your normal pace for the first five minutes in order to warm up your muscles. Then gradually step up to a brisk pace, (walking like you were late for work.) During the last five minutes, gently reduce your brisk pace and return to your normal walking pace to allow for heart and blood pressure to return to normal.

Good posture is essential when exercise walking. Shoulders should be back with chin up looking straight ahead. Arms should be relaxed with elbows level with the waist. Knees should bend with each stride with a definite heel to toe step, as though showing the person behind you the soles of your shoes.

Having a walking partner is good as it will encourage each party to stick with the routine, it's also safer  more enjoyable way to exercise. A good way to know If you're walking too fast is to try the "talk test" If you are so out of breath that you can't carry on a conversation with the person you're walking with, you need to slow down.

For those who prefer to go it alone, a simple pedometer which measures your steps or distance can be purchased for just a few dollars. To keep pace while brisk walking, some prefer to chant a few words in their mind. Concentrating on working out each part of the body will also help keep pace as well as focus. Some prefer to listen to music while exercising outside, however, this can be dangerous and also defeats the object of achieving the full natural health benefits that walking brings.

During the winter months, it may be too icy, cold and wet to walk outside, this does not have to interfere with your daily walking routine. Many of the larger local churches have indoor walking circuits, or the nearest shopping mall where you can walk the entire perimeter of the building. Word of warning, when mall walking be very careful not be sidetracked by a super sale in your favorite store! Actually, walking the mall without being distracted will also reaffirm the discipline and willpower you have recently acquired.

As well as good walking shoes, wearing the right clothes is also important for outdoor exercising. Expensive  designer fitness wear is definitely not necessary, but if you look the part, you act the part, and feel the part. Wal-Mart and Target have large selections of inexpensive sportswear each season. Loose, comfortable and appropriate clothing for whatever the weather conditions is all that is needed. Sweat pants, long sleeve t-shirt, warm hooded jacket for winter, a light waterproof jacket for spring and sport shorts, tank tops for summer, it's as simple as that. Women walkers may be more comfortable wearing a sports bra. Purchasing sportswear when on the out of season clearance rack will save more dollars.

New Year's resolution or just suddenly feeling health conscious, the beginning of 2012 is a good time to start planning your fitness goals.

Wishing you a safe, happy and healthy New Year.