Walking: Low-Impact Aerobics
When you walk, one foot is always in contact with the ground, which makes it a low-impact aerobic activity. Walking will not forcibly jar your skeletal system, but because it is a weight-bearing activity, it stimulates bone growth and density. This, in turn, helps prevent osteoporosis. You can walk nearly anywhere: in the city, in the country, in a neighborhood, in a shopping mall, or for transportation.
Walking builds muscular strength and endurance in your legs, arms (if swung properly), and the muscles of the back and abdomen that keep your trunk erect. It also improves coordination and balance. Besides being easy, walking has a meditative quality that calms the mind and fights depression and anxiety, and you can do it alone or with another person or in a group.
Despite what you may have heard, not just any old shoes are suitable for walking. You need shoes that provide support in all the right places. Good walking shoes help support and protect your spine, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. One unnecessary trip to the doctor is more expensive than what it costs for a decent pair of walking shoes, so do not hesitate to buy them. Buy shoes that are truly meant for walking. Avoid aerobic or court shoes because they do not provide the type of support needed for walking. If you are a combination walker and jogger, you may choose to get running shoes instead. But if you are exclusively a walker, again, get a pair of walking shoes. Walking shoes offer a bit more flexibility, which you need because when you walk, you flex your feet and push off with your toes more than when you run.
Because you land on your heels, you need a stable shoe that has a heel counter, the cuplike device in the heel of the shoe that helps to secure your foot and keep it from moving around. Although it's good to incorporate walking into your daily routines and errands, it is best not to walk as rigorously or for as long a period of time in your dress or street shoes as you would when walking strictly for exercise. Your feet will pay the price with pain, blisters, or both.
Proper Walking Posture
To walk properly, imagine a cord coming out of the center and top of your head that gently pulls you up straight. One of the most common errors walkers make is leaning forward rather than standing erect. Keep your hips directly under your upper body. You don't want to be stiff, but you should avoid bending at your hips or hunching your shoulders. Another common error is walking with the head down, looking at the ground immediately in front of the feet. Keep your head up and look several feet
Aside from the need for walking shoes to help reduce the chance of injury or pain, walking is cheap and easy. If you walk regularly and use good shoes, walking can build abdominal strength and leg strength. It has little or no learning curve, and you can improve your skills and effectiveness over time.
When you walk, your arms should be relaxed (taking deep breaths helps) and balanced so that the actions of both arms are the same. Swing your arms counter to your legs — in other words, move your right arm when you are moving your left leg, and move your left arm when you are moving your right leg. Keep your arms bent to about a 90-degree angle, and hold them close to your body rather than having them wing out. Swinging your arms will also help you to elevate your heart rate. While your arms should swing, your hands shouldn't go across the midline of the body or above the level of your chest. Hold your hands with the thumbs up, and with a loose fist.