Walking For Health

The Beginners Guide to Walking for Health

It may not seem much but walking can the best way to start your new fitness regime.

Actually, “regime” sounds a bit harsh and probably the wrong way to look at trying to get fit.

So let’s start again.

Walking is the best way to get fit because it’s easy and free. Here you’ll learn; how to start walking, where to find walks and how it will benefit your health.

It may sound strange, but walking can also be dangerous for your health.

More on that later.

What are the Benefits of Walking?

There are many reasons to take up walking. A brisk ten minute walk each day can improve your stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier. You will find your sleep patterns will improve and your mental alertness will be sharper.

healthy heart poster
Photo: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/

Starting with a short walk and gradually building up to longer hikes makes it easier to challenge yourself and to get out in the fresh air.

You don’t need professional and expensive equipment, just a pair of comfortable and supportive shoes plus some weather appropriate clothing.

So, there you have it. It’s cheap and easy to start and will make you feel better very quickly.

Walking for Beginners; Why Take Up Walking?

You have to find a reason to take up walking. The simplest way to start walking is to park the car further from the office, not jump on the closest bus or train but to walk the remaining distance to work or school.

Even if it’s just half a mile, it can be a great start to your fitness programme and a new you. Think about it; half a mile each day adds up to 2.5 miles each week!

walking stats

To really benefit from these walks you have to make it a brisk stroll.

This will get your lungs working harder and stimulate your blood flow.

Breathing is very important – obviously! But, you may ask, what is the proper way to breathe when walking?

In through the nose and out the mouth is the professional advice, and without sounding too pedantic, I would probably stick with that.

Take a look at yourself and take notice little details to help you judge your breathing. If you can talk but not whistle then you are walking fast enough.

This comparison not only benefits you but society in general as it stops people whistling in the street! Just one of my pet hates.

whistler out walking

How To Start Walking

If you’re not an active person don’t expect to be running round the park in a few days. Start simply with a brisk few hundred meters walk to the shops.

Starting slow and gradually building up your walks will help you more than rushing out and expecting to be the next London Marathon attendee.

Remember the idea is for you to feel better about exercising and not feel pressured into exercising.

This is where many people go wrong.

Wanting too much too quickly. Start slow and steady and build up gradually. Forcing yourself to exercise is not enjoyable, but going for a casual walk and getting the air in your lungs is a great way to start.

How Do You Stay Motivated?

You have to make walking a habit. Instead of jumping in the car to go to the local shops, slip your walking shoes on and give yourself an extra five minutes to enjoy the great outdoors. It is simple changes like this that will help you keep motivated. It is all about taking little steps to achieve a bigger goal. Other examples of short walks are:

  • The school journey
  • Using stairs instead of lifts
  • Walking to work
  • Walking the dog further
  • After dinner strolls with the family
  • Leaving the car behind for local trips

How to enjoy your walks

Walking can be a solitary action but, that said, it can help lift your mood.

On the other hand, if you want it to be it can be a very sociable event too. Walking with a friend or simply bumping into a neighbour and joining them on part of their walk will help you pass the time whilst also learning new facts or keeping up with local gossip.

Challenge yourself to find out something interesting about someone new each day and you’ll never know where it may lead.

As the saying goes; A stranger is a friend waiting to be met.

Look Up & See a New World

Variety is also good for your walks. You don’t have to live in the countryside to benefit from walking. There are so many ways walking in the city is good for you. Just look up. This is where you’ll discover most.

When driving you miss out on so much because you are only focused on getting from one place to another, but if you take your time and look up you will discover new sites you never knew existed.

You’ll see things you never noticed before and you’ll start to learn and love your environment in a different way.

Architecture for example.

I used to work in central London, commuting everyday and never looked up at the architecture.

I only noticed this when I moved out and came back for casual visits. Walking through the city and taking your time to look up and  around you will open up a new world. You’ll see things you never noticed before and you’ll start to learn and love your environment in a different way.

walking in the city

It’s the same for countryside living. Driving through country lanes means you spend most of your time concentrating on what maybe coming round the next bend.

You don’t actually see any of the beautiful scenery and wildlife surrounding you.

So, leave the car, or park it up and start walking.

It’ll open up new worlds for you and you’ll be amazed at what you’ve been missing out on.

Finding Places to Walk

Joining a walking club could be your next step.

Physically putting aside a morning or a whole day to walk is a must once you start realising the benefits of walking.

Joining a club can be daunting but you have to remember everyone is in the same situation as you. They simply want to get out and get healthy in a sociable environment with other people who like doing what you are doing.

The Ramblers Association can help you find walking groups near you and The National Trust has a list of venues to visit where you’ll find interesting walks.

Usually a days walk will vary from a couple of miles to 15 miles with a break at the local pub or restaurant for lunch.

The great thing about walking clubs is you don’t have to mix with the other walkers!

You could simply turn up and join the line and move at your own pace.

But if you do join the conversations you will make new friends and be invited to other social events. It is a great way to meet new people and to keep healthy.

apps for walking

Apps, Maps & Route Planners

There are various Apps out there that can help you plan and track your walks.

Using these apps can be a way of keeping you motivated to walk more.

Some, like Walkit, plan your route and show you how many calories you will burn during your exercise.

Hikideas is another example of a great route planner.

You could also use Google Maps just to plan you basic route, it’ll tell you how to get where you want to go and how long it’ll take, but wont go into the same depth of details as the other Apps.

There are even groups out there like “Walking For Health” that can let you join in planned walks with others who are looking to boost their exercise routines with light and and sociable walks.

no more heel pain
Stretches help prevent heel pain

Exercises For Walkers to Prevent Heel Pain

Wearing the wrong shoes over rough ground could be doing more damage than good to your feet.

Wearing the best walking shoes you can afford to buy is a priority if you intend to extend your hikes for longer periods. Many people suffer from heel pain which can be prevented by having the right support and cushioning in their shoes.

By exerting unsupported pressure on your Plantar Fascia, (the support tissue in your foot) you could be going down a long and sometimes painful journey to recovering from heel pain.

Calf stretching exercises along with a gentle foot massages can help you before and after your walks.

These simple walking exercises will keep you moving and help prevent your feet and ankles from seizing up after each walk.

Conclusion

The health benefits of walking are numerous and very easy to take advantage of. A simple brisk walk will wake up your senses and make you feel fitter and more alert. You don’t have to invest in expensive designer outfits but if you are going on longer hikes try buying a decent pair of walking shoes, they will benefit you in the end. Walking can also open up new horizons for you like friendships or just a fresher understanding of your environment.

walking for health article

Now Over To You…

Get out there, try your first walk and let us know how you get on. Encourage others by commenting below. Good luck and enjoy.

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