Walking is a great cardiovascular exercise and is often preferable because of its simplicity, low risk of injury, and adaptability to busy schedules. Benefits include increased cardio-respiratory (heart and lung) health, decreased body fat, decreased risk of heart disease increased bone strength, lower risk of injury, and improved leg and low back muscle endurance.
- Walking is appropriate for those with low functional capacity who need an initial low-intensity workout (beginners). Because walking is generally less intense than jogging, you can maintain longer exercise sessions with less risk of injury.
- Proper footwear is very important for a safe and effective walking program. Specialized walking shoes are available at most shoe stores-although many women prefer a good running shoe. The ideal walking shoe should have a low head profile and firm durable mid-sole.
- Always warm-up, stretch, and cool-down during your walking session. Begin each session by walking at a low intensity for 5-10 minutes (warm-up) and then stretch your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, and low back muscles (refer to the WF Flexibility Training component for the principles and techniques of stretching).
- After your exercise session, cool-down by walking at a low intensity for another 5-10 minutes and then stretch the same muscles as before.
- Be sure to breathe regularly throughout the exercise session.
- As you walk, be sure to keep your back straight, your abdominal tight, and "pump" your arms back and forth.
- It is also important to gradually increase the duration (the time you spend in each session) before you increase the intensity. That is, when beginning a walking program, be more concerned with increasing the number of minutes of the exercise session before you increase the intensity, by increasing your speed or walking hilly terrain. Interval training. is an effective method of gradually increasing your intensity.