Walking For Health
Author : n/a    -   Subject : Health

    Walking. It's easy, it's cheap, it gets you where you want to go. And it's good for your health!

    Yet many of us - often without even thinking about it - take the car, the escalator, or the moving walkway rather than use our own two legs and feet for transportation. This results in daily missed opportunities for physical activity.

    Walking is an excellent form of physical activity, particularly because of its versatility. Almost anyone can do it anywhere. You can be any age and at any fitness level. You can walk outdoors or indoors.

    Like other forms of physical activity, walking can help you get in shape, maintain your weight, reduce stress, improve your outlook on life, and even lower your risk for chronic illness. At a minimum, aim for a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week. If you're pressed for time, you can do two 15-minute walks or even three 10-minute walks.

    So what are you waiting for? Grab a friend, get out, and start walking!

    Starting a Walking Group
    Some people prefer to walk alone. But there are several advantages to walking with others. It improves your likelihood of sticking with a routine, provides opportunities to socialize, alleviates boredom, and increases your safety.

    Finding a walking partner can be as easy as asking a friend, neighbor, family member, or coworker to join you. It's best to start out with someone who has a similar schedule and is at the same fitness level as you. While it might take more effort to coordinate regular walks with two or more people, you improve your chances of having someone available to walk with.

    If you don't know anyone interested in walking with you, find out if there is a walking group in your community. Check with your local YMCA, recreation center, or hospital wellness program. Local and county government, community groups, churches, and clubs often publicize their activities in the newspaper along with contact information. Some national groups, such as the American Volkssport Association and the Sierra Club, have local chapters throughout the country that organize walks and hikes. These groups also list their activities in the newspaper, and some have recorded telephone messages with a rundown of upcoming outings and events.

    The bottom line:
    Walking is easy, inexpensive, and almost anyone can do it.
    If there are no walking groups in your community, consider starting one. Post a flyer at work or at a local library, recreation center, church, or other place of worship. List a day and time for a meeting of interested walkers and see who shows up. Choose a public meeting place. You also could list a telephone number on the flyer where new walkers could contact you.

    Once you have identified potential walking group members, you need to set goals. How many times a week does the group want to walk? How far? Where do you want to walk? Are people willing to drive to a particular park or path? Create a list of names and telephone numbers so that group members can contact one another.

    You also should set some guidelines. For instance, will you walk if it's raining? Does the group want to walk indoors as well as outdoors? Will members call one another if someone can't make it?

    Safety Tips
    Whether you're going it alone or are part of a group, remember the following safety tips whenever you walk:

    Wear shoes with good support and traction to prevent slipping and falling.
    Use paths and sidewalks whenever available.
    If you must walk on or near a road or street, face oncoming traffic so you can see drivers and vice versa.
    Wear bright or fluorescent colors, such as hot pink, blaze orange, and neon green so that you are easier to spot.
    Don't walk after dark.
    Look in all directions before crossing a street or intersection. Avoid hazardous crossings and intersections when possible.
    If you wear headphones, keep the volume low enough so that you still can hear what is going on around you - a horn, oncoming traffic, voices.
    Pause at curbs and allow yourself plenty of time to cross streets.
    Heed all traffic signs and signals.
    Be alert to opportunities for cultivating walking buddies. For instance, you might even meet a fellow walking partner on a solo trek. Whether you're a casual walker, hiker, walk-a-thoner, or racewalker, chances are you can find others in your community to walk with. And once you start, keep walking!

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