When it comes to choosing a new form of exercise to help you get in shape, there are a lot of options available to you. You can join a gym, go running, start swimming, begin to cycle, or take fitness classes.
But one of the simplest and most underrated forms of exercise is walking. Walking is a low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise that has some great health benefits.
Walking can help to improve your heart health, lower your blood pressure, help you lose weight, and boost your overall fitness. Additionally, walking is a great way to relieve stress and stay active.
Wondering about the best way to get started walking? Here’s everything you need to know.
Don’t skip a warm-up routine
You might not think that you need to warm up before going for a walk, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Before starting any new form of physical activity, it is important to warm up properly. This helps to prepare your body for increased activity, and can help to prevent injuries.
Warming up before you start walking helps to get your blood flowing and loosens up your muscles.
You don’t need to go overboard – a simple 5-10 minute warm-up routine is all you need.
Some good warm-up exercises before you start your walking workout include walking lightly on the spot – or dynamic stretches like leg swings, calf stretches and walking lunges.
Decide on a route before you set off
When it comes to walking for exercise, one of the most important things to remember is to decide on a route in advance, before you set off.
By planning a route in advance, you’ll know where you’re going to be walking and how far you’re walking. This will help to keep you on track and make sure that you don’t end up either cutting your walk short – or going too much further than you expected.
It’s also a good idea to let other people know your walking route from a safety perspective. If something were to happen to you while you were walking, someone could come looking for you if they knew where you were supposed to be. If you haven’t shared your route, this is less likely to be possible.
A realistic plan and consistent walking schedule
When it comes to starting any new exercise routine, it’s important to be realistic with your plan. Having a realistic walking plan will help you in staying motivated and will help you achieve your goals in the long term.
If you are new to exercise, it’s not realistic to expect that you’ll be going for a two hour brisk walk every day – it’s too much too soon.
A good goal to start with is 20 minutes per day. This is realistic and achievable for most people.
Once you’re comfortably walking for 20 minutes at a time, you can lengthen the duration of your walk by 5 minute increments, until you’re comfortable walking at a moderate pace for 40 minutes to an hour.
When you’ve found a comfortable route that works for you, you can look to increase your walking pace and try walking faster.
It can also be helpful for some people to walk at the same time each day – building their regular walking into a daily routine. This can help with forming a walking habit, and make it easier to stick to your training plan.
Invest in some good walking socks
You might not think that socks are an important part of walking for exercise, but they can actually make a big difference.
Walking socks are usually made from material that helps to wick away moisture – this is important because it helps to keep your feet dry and comfortable.
Having dry and comfortable feet is important when you’re walking, as it can help to prevent blisters and other foot problems.
So, if you’re serious about walking for exercise, make sure you invest in a good pair of walking socks!
Find some sturdy walking shoes
Another important piece of equipment that you’ll need for walking is a good pair of walking shoes.
Walking shoes are different from trainers and running shoes in a few ways – they’re usually a little sturdier and have more support. This is important, as it helps to protect your feet and ankles when you’re walking.
It’s also a good idea to buy walking shoes that are specific to the type of surface you’ll be walking on. For example, if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking on pavement, you’ll want to get a pair of shoes with good cushioning. But if you’re planning on doing some off-road walking, you’ll want to get a pair of trail shoes with more grip.
Take a look at the range of walking shoes at Decathlon.
Correct clothing for the weather and light conditions
If you’re walking outdoors, another important consideration when you’re walking for exercise is what to wear.
You’ll obviously want to dress according to the weather. If it’s cold outside, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing enough layers to keep yourself warm. If it’s warm, you’ll want to wear light, breathable clothing.
But it’s also important to think about visibility.
If you’re going to be walking in low light conditions or at night, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing bright colours or reflective clothing. This will help other people see you and could potentially prevent accidents.
An easy-to-carry water bottle
You should always think about hydration when you’re starting any new physical activity to achieve your fitness goals.
Walking is a moderate form of exercise, so you won’t need to drink as much water as you would if you were doing something more strenuous.
But as you build up your walking distance and begin to walk faster in line with your plan – it’s still a good idea to have a water bottle with you, so you can stay hydrated throughout your walk.
A good water bottle for your regular walks should be lightweight and easy to carry.
Don’t let your music or audiobooks dull your awareness of your surroundings
When you’re walking for exercise, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. This includes being aware of traffic, as well as other people and obstacles around you.
If you’re wearing headphones, make sure they’re not too loud so you can still hear what’s going on around you.
Keep on top of your progress with a good sports watch or fitness tracker
Last but not least, you might want to invest in a good sports watch or fitness tracker.
These devices can be really useful when you’re walking for exercise, as they can help you keep track of your progress and see how far you’ve walked.
Some fitness trackers also have other features that can be useful for walkers, like heart rate monitors and GPS.
So, if you’re serious about starting a walking routine, this article has hopefully given you an overview of the things you’ll need to consider before you get started.
Just remember to warm up, plan your route, have realistic goals, make sure you’re visible and be aware of your surroundings as you walk. But most importantly – enjoy the exercise!