Walking is one of the best ways to get in an aerobic workout. It’s safe, healthy, fun, inexpensive, easy to start and a great form of aerobic exercise for the family. It’s great all year round. Walking, like other aerobic exercises, should produce a training effect. “Training effect” is the body’s ability to recover from physical stress such as exercise or work.

Unlike many other aerobic exercises, walking is relatively free from the many hazards of aerobic exercises. Aerobic exercises such as jogging, jumping rope or high impact aerobic can cause joint pain, stress fractures, muscle pulls and other problems. When you use a high impact exercise to get in your aerobics, you put 3 to 4 times your body weight on every joint in the body. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use high impact exercises such as jogging, but you should be aware of the problems that can be associated with them. When you walk, the impact of each step is only 1 1/2 times your body weight. Studies have shown that you can get the same benefits by walking sixty minutes, four times a week as you can by running thirty minutes three times a week.

Walking is a great way to get the kids involved in a fitness program. If you walk or jog on a track or a similar flat surface, you can take your kids along for the workout. If their legs are too short to keep up with you while walking or jogging, let them ride a tricycle or bicycle around the track while you jog. If you have a daughter who still plays with dolls and has a baby carriage, she can walk her dolls while you get in your workout. Make sure you watch them so they don’t overdo it. When they get tired, tell them to rest. Remember start them out slowly so they don’t become discouraged.

Remember, while walking is relatively free from injuries you can still overdo it. If you begin to feel pain, stop walking for a couple of days, then slowly work your way back into your program. Start walking at your own level, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Then gradually build on the time, pace and distance.

Walking will supply you

with the following benefits:

• Lower resting heart rate

• Faster recovery rate after work or exercise

• Lower resting blood pressure

• Better cardiovascular efficiency

• Increase blood/oxygen volume

• Decrease LDL (low density lipoproteins, bad cholesterol)

• Increase HDL (high density lipoproteins, good cholesterol)

• Lessen the risk of blood clots

• Strengthen the heart

• Help reduce weight by burning body fat

• Increase energy

• Make bones stronger

• Reduce stress from anger, frustration, change, etc.

Tips that can help

you get started:

• Go for a walk when your energy level is low (it will give you a boost)

• Walk to work

• Walk before breakfast

• Walk in the mall if the weather is bad

• Get a friend to walk with you

• Walking is a good way to spend quality time with your mate or your children

A Quick Walking Program

1st Week

Walk 20 min.

Record the distance.

Walk the same distance and time three times during the week.

2nd Week

Walk for 25 minutes.

Keep a record of the distance

Walk the same distance and time three times during the week.

3rd Week

Walk for 30 minutes.

Keep a record of the distance and time.

Walk the same distance and time three times during the week

Increase the time by 5 minutes each week. Keep a record of both the time and the distance. Try to have at least one day of rest between your walking workouts for the first two months if you’ve never been involved in exercise. After reaching 45 minutes, try to increase the distance you cover in 45 minutes.

12-Week Walking Program*

Week#1 5 mins.

1/6 mile (slow pace)

1/4 mile (moderate pace)

1/3 mile (fast pace)

Week#2 10 mins

1/3 mile (slow pace)

1/2 mile (moderate pace)

2/3 mile (fast pace)

Week#3 15 mins.

1/2 mile (slow pace)

3/4 mile (moderate pace)

1 mile (fast pace)

Week#4 20 mins.

2/3 mile (slow pace)

1 mile (moderate pace)

1-1/3mile (fast pace)

Week#5 25 mins.

5/6 mile (slow pace)

1-1/4 miles (moderate pace)

1-2/3mile (fast pace)

Week#6 30 mins.

1 mile (slow pace)

1-1/2 miles (moderate pace)

2 miles (fast pace)

Week#7 35 mins.

1-1/6 miles (slow pace)

1-3/4 miles (moderate pace)

2-1/3 mile (fast pace)

Week#8 40 mins.

1-1/3 mile (slow pace)

2 miles (moderate pace)

2-2/3 mile (fast pace)

Week#9 45 mins.

1-1/2 miles (slow pace)

2-1/4 miles (moderate pace)

3 miles (fast pace)

Week#10 50 mins.

1-2/3 miles (slow pace)

2-1/2 miles (moderate pace)

3-1/3 mile (fast pace)

Week#11 55 mins.

1-5/6 miles (slow pace)

2-3/4 miles (moderate pace)

3-2/3 mile (fast pace)

Week#12 60 mins.

2 miles (slow pace)

3 miles (moderate pace)

4 miles (fast pace)

*How to use the chart

Walk four times each week.

Increase your time each week.

Use a moderate to fast pace at least twice a week.

Plan your course before your walk.

After you’ve reached 60 minutes, you may want to use the same time and increase the distance. Continue to increase the distance weekly until you can’t increase your distance during the 60 minutes. You then have to decide if you need more aerobic exercise. For most people 60 minutes of walking near maximum pace is all you’ll need to stay aerobically fit and loose weight.

There are a few other safety features you want take into consideration when walking outside. Walk with a friend. Avoid isolated and poorly-lit areas. Always let someone know what route you’re taking and when you expect to return. Carry phone, change and identification. Do not wear headphones — they make you less aware of traffic sounds, dogs, approaching strangers and can cause problems with your equilibrium. If you can, use a route that others use when working out so you’ll be less likely to be a victim of foul play.

When walking or running you should always face on-coming traffic. Facing the traffic will give you the chance to see what’s coming and give you more time to react. So that you’ll be seen, wear bright clothing during the day that doesn’t match your surroundings. Day-glow orange is an excellent choice. At night, you want to wear white or reflective clothing. You can even carry a flashlight. Two other good tips are to always use a running or walking route that is traveled by others and let someone know you’re going out and when you’re expected back.

During the winter months, you don’t have to stop running or exercising outside but you should try to acclimate yourself to the changes. When the weather turns cold, you should wear several layers of clothes. For example, you can wear sweat pants over tights and leg warmers around your ankles. For your upper body, one or two T-shirts can be worn under a sweatshirt and a warm but loose-fitting jacket if needed. Gloves and earmuffs or a hat will keep your body heat from escaping. You can lose up to 40 percent of your body heat if your head is not covered. Cover all exposed skin on windy chilly days.

Run into the wind on your way out and with the wind on your way home, this will decrease the wind chill factor when you’re sweating the most. Also, avoid running in open areas, buildings help block-chilling winds.

If you’re exercising in the heat here are some words of caution. Don’t wait until your thirsty to drink water. By the time you become thirsty, you could be dehydrated. So, drink water before, during and after your workout. If you’re overweight, slow down your workout pace. Your extra body fat and the heat will make your body work overtime. Restrictive diets and heat don’t mix. High protein, low carbohydrate or low calorie diets can dehydrate the body and cause many problems while you’re working out. So, eat balanced meals high in carbohydrates. As the humidity raises, adjust your workout even if you’re in good shape. Read your body if it’s running out of energy or if it seems affected by the heat, stop. You don’t want to stop working out just because it’s hot, but you should use a little common sense when working out in hot weather.

There will be some days when the weather will be too frigid or too hot to walk. Use your better judgment and forego your outdoor workouts for an indoor track. Indoor tracks are good but they can cause problems with your ankle and knee joints. When you walk or run on an indoor track, your ankles have to adapt to the change in the surface and the sharp curves. This can put a strain on your joints and muscle in your legs. When choosing an indoor track, chose one that has a wooden base. It should also have banked turns. You should make wide turns and reverse your walking direction every 10 minutes. These tips will help take the strain off your ankle and knee joints.

With more people exercising outside, the incidence of skin cancer has increased in the past few years due to exposure to the sun year-round. Another factor that may affect your exposure to the sun is your time zone. Experts have told us that to protect our skin, we should stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the ultraviolet rays are most intense. But this warning should be adjusted for location. During daylight saving time or in the western part of a time zone, you can still get sunburn late in the afternoon. That’s because sunlight peaks later and doesn’t taper out until evening. Between 3 and 4 p.m., you could be exposed to as much as 85 percent of the sun’s maximum dose of ultraviolet (UV) B rays. This can happen during the winter months also. Most people of African, South American and Mediterranean ancestry believe they have more protection from the sun’s harmful rays because of their darker skin color. The darker skin color may offer some protection but caution should be shown when it comes to exposure to the sun. The face is the most common area for skin cancer to develop. The chest is second, the hands are third and your legs are fourth in areas to develop skin cancer. This means that all the areas of your skin exposed to the sun should be protected from the sun. So, wear a sunscreen of no less than 35 SPF year round.

Everybody needs sunglasses, and not just in the summertime. If you’re going to walk or exercise outside you should wear sunglasses. You’re exposed to ultraviolet light all year and over the years, this can damage the lenses of your eyes. Any sunglasses are better than no sunglasses. Here’s what you should look for in a pair of sunglasses: The tint is not what blocks ultraviolet light. It’s the special chemicals added when the lenses are made. Brown or amber tinted lenses block the sun’s rays best but they sometimes distort your vision. Gray and green lenses don’t block as much ultraviolet light but they don’t distort your vision. Your sunglasses should be dark enough so you don’t see your eyes when looking in a mirror. Plastic lenses are light but glass doesn’t scratch as easy. Mirrored lenses offer extra protection against glare but scratches are a problem. Wraparound frames are good because they block light above and below the eyes, but they shouldn’t block your side vision. They’re best for prolonged use. Large frames will protect the delicate skin around your eyes. You should make sure the frame doesn’t block your vision. Oval and circular type sunglasses offer more protection because they’re larger and work best with indirect exposure. Shape, lenses and color are all important, but they’re only as good as the fit. So, if they’re sliding down your nose, have them adjusted. Make sure the sunglasses you use provide UVA and UVB protection. Everyone’s sunglasses needs are different but everyone needs sunglasses. If you have special problems with your eyes, you should see a professional.

Drinking water is important all year around, but you need to be especially meticulous about drinking water when the weather is hot. Two thirds of your body is composed of water. This makes it the body’s most vital nutrient. To maintain balance, the average person needs about about 10 cups per day. Of this amount, probably 60 percent will be obtained from drinking water or beverages, 30 percent from moist foods and the remaining 10 percent will be a byproduct of the metabolism of various nutrients.

You have to drink water or you’ll have some serious problems. We lose about a half-gallon of body fluid during the day. That’s about 2 percent of your body weight. If you workout you’ll lose even more and this could be dangerous. With a 3 percent fluid loss, you’d have a hard time maintaining your body temperature. With a 4 percent fluid loss, your muscles stop working properly. A 5 percent fluid loss is life threatening. At 150 lbs, a 5 percent fluid loss is only 7 1/2 lbs. Many people try to sweat away excess weight. Water loss or sweating is not an indication you’re losing weight. It just means you’re losing necessary body fluids.

Drinking water during your workout helps to increase your blood volume, which will increase cardiac output. Cardiac output is the amount of blood being pumped during each heartbeat. The more blood your heart pumps with each heartbeat the more nutrients are transported throughout the body. These nutrients provide energy for work. Many people run out of steam during an exercise session because they don’t replace water lost through exercise. Studies show that drinking water before, during and after a workout increase energy production. This is true during hot and cold weather. Don’t wait until you become thirsty, by then it’s too late and your body will start to fatigue. As the humidity rises, adjust your workout even if you’re in good shape. If you’re overweight, slow down your workout pace. Your extra body fat and the heat will make your body work overtime.

Remember, walking is one of the best ways to get in an aerobic workout. It’s safe, healthy, fun, inexpensive, easy to start and a great form of aerobic exercise for the family. So, start that walking program today.

Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician. For help with drug, alcohol and mental health problems call Sobriety Through Outpatient, the areas most unique drug, alcohol and mental health treatment center 215-227-STOP (7867), 800-660-STOP (7867). Watch or listen to our recovery media stations everyday at www.stop-phila.org and www.lifeandspiritonline.com.

If you have a fitness question or concern you would like addressed, write to “Tips to be Fit,” P.O. Box 53443, Philadelphia, PA 19105, tipstobefit@gmail.com, or call 215-387-3081. If you’ve missed an article of “Tips to be Fit,” go to www.phillytrib.com and search “Tips to be Fit.”

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