Walking can be first rate exercise By Kathleen Mc Quaide-Little icon

Walking can be first rate exercise By Kathleen Mc Quaide-Little

Walking is fast becoming one of the more popular activities for health and fitness globally. It is a low-impact, all-round body conditioner with a low risk of injury.

Walking is fast becoming one of the more popular activities for health and fitness globally.  It is a low-impact, all-round body conditioner with a low risk of injury. Walking also has many added health benefits – it tones muscles (including your all-important heart muscle), increases bone density and is a great way to lose extra weight and decrease your risk of suffering from chronic diseases of lifestyle. On top of this, is the fact that it is low-cost – all you need is a pair of good shoes, its accessible to most, it’s a great social activity and a very effective de-stressor that can lift your spirits and increase your energy. You can see why it is a winner!

Keep reading and you will see just how easy it is to get into walking and be rewarded with all the associated health benefits.

Getting started requires a good shock absorbing, supportive pair of walking shoes, perhaps a stopwatch and some comfortable clothing, other paraphernalia is optional.


Here are a few basic tips:

  • Purchase the right type of shoe for your foot strike. A salesman at a reputable sports store should be able to advise you.
  • Usually walking shoes should be one size bigger than your casual shoes.
  • Shop later in the day when your feet are a little swollen, since feet swell with exercise. Try on the shoes with socks you’ll wear when walking.
  • One foot is usually bigger than the other, so try on both shoes to accommodate this.  When standing on both feet, there should be a thumbnail's width between the shoe's end and the big toe of the larger foot.
  • Try out a variety of brands, walk around the store and choose the most comfortable pair that provides both effective shock-absorption and control.

 Walking for HEALTH AND fitness

Walking can help you to shape up, and here are some ways to get started and then later to maximize benefits and keep your walking interesting.

Step 1: Building a base and time on your feet

Start off with about four, 30 to 40 minute sessions of brisk walking a week. After two weeks, extend each session by adding 5 to 10 minutes. After a month, add in another longer walk (1 hour), each week. This will provide an excellent base programme for health.

Many programmes advocate accumulating 10 000 steps a day (about 8km). Remember this includes all the steps you take just going about your normal day. An easy way to do this is to wear a pedometer. In a review article published in the November 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers at Stanford University found that people who used pedometers to monitor their daily activity, walked about 2000 more steps per day (about 1.6 km), compared to those who weren’t counting steps. They also showed statistically significant decreases in their body mass index and blood pressure.

If 10 000 steps seems too steep a goal, then establish how many steps you normally take in a day. Increase this number weekly, by 500 steps per day and aim for this new goal until you are averaging about 8 000 – 10 000 steps per day.

Taking the next step: If you now want to train for a goal (e.g. a 10 or 21.1km event), or improve your fitness substantially, then you need a programme that incorporates more specific training sessions.

Step 2: Increase your pace

Walking faster not only burns more calories, it also means more muscle recruitment and a better workout for your heart. This translates into a fitter, more toned you, with slightly more muscle mass. After a month of base-training, include one “fast walk” every week.
How fast is fast? 
Count the number of steps you walk per minute on a flat piece of ground. We all have different stride-lengths, but here is a guide:


Steps per minute

Equates to speed


~ 100



~ 125



~ 145


Race walking

More than 145

Very fast!

Aim for about 145 steps per minute during your fast walks.

Step 3:  Add some interval training

Once you have been walking for about 6 weeks, you can add in one session of interval training a week. It involves alternating short bursts of high intensity walking with a slow recovery walk. For example, do 2 minutes of very brisk walking followed by 2 minutes of slow recovery walking and repeat this 5 to 10 times.
Interval training is an excellent method of kick-starting your metabolism, increasing your fitness and boosting fat burning. It also adds variety to keep you having fun!

Step 4: Include hill training

Whilst many walkers steer clear of any hill, they are one of the best workouts to improve your fitness fast and increase your muscle strength. Start off, by choosing a route that incorporates about three to four, 300m hills once a week. Try not to slow down too much on the hills, lean forward as you climb and pump your arms to assist your ascent. Expect to become a little breathless and recover on the flats or downhills. Walking hills is also a great calorie-burner and workout for your buttocks muscles. 

Step 5: Take a Hike

Organise a day-hike or even a three to four day hike with friends or family.  It’s an awesome means of getting your body into shape and you’ll have the added advantage of returning home with a renewed spirit, fully inspired to continue on your health and fitness journey.

how to get more steps in your day

  1. Plan ahead - think about opportunities in your day to walk extra steps.
  2. If using public transport, get off the bus before your destination and walk a few blocks.
  3. Park your car farther from the shop entrance when you go shopping or better still, walk to the shops (with the soaring petrol price, it’ll save you lots of money!)
  4. Take a lunch-time walk and pick up a healthy sandwich on the way.
  5. Climb the stairs instead of using the lift or elevator.
  6. Do your own house work, gardening and use a lawnmower that you push not ride!
  7. Set up “walking” meetings with colleagues.
  8. Keep a pair of walking shoes in your office, so that you can “seize the moment” for a quick walk before, during or after work.

 tips to ensure success  

  • Stretch after each walk, including the hamstrings, quadriceps, buttock and calves.
  • Try a variety of routes such as off-road walks; barefoot walking along the beach; trail walking in the forest – walking never needs to become boring!
  • Train for an event, since having a goal can be extremely motivating and keeps you focused. This could even be a hike!
  • Partner-up: Find a like-minded, committed friend who is about as fit as you, with whom to train.
  • Keep track of your walking sessions, speed, body measurements and mood. It’s great to look back and see yourself improve and transform into an energetic, well-toned, fit and healthy person who is doing what is necessary to optimise their quality of life.


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