Start Walking for Fitness and Health in Four Easy Steps

A hiker walking for fitness along a trail through the forest
One of the benefits of walking is enjoying the serenity of a hike through the forest. [photo: Lacey Raper |]

Walking for fitness is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy. Why? It’s an activity that most of us can do and doesn’t require a personal trainer. And we can do it almost anywhere.

How can you get the most benefit from walking? Let me walk you through it!

I’m a walker. I’ve walked the ancient pilgrims’ route across Spain and I’ve hiked the Andes to see the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu at sunrise. Closer to home, I enjoy the serenity of nature on my daily walks through one of our city’s largest parks.

Why do I walk? For several reasons, but two especially stand out. Walking helps keep me fit and it keeps me in touch with my surroundings. Besides yoga and swimming, walking for exercise is one of my favourite low impact workouts.

Benefits of Walking for Fitness

Now, you know that walking is good for you. But just how do you benefit? Regular brisk walks can:

control body weight
lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduces risk of chronic health conditions like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes
increase bone density
improve balance and coordination
improve daily functions like sleep, digestion, circulation
lift your mood

10,000 Steps To Better Health

You take a step in the right direction when you start walking 10,000 steps a day. Promoted by organizations such as Health Canada, it’s a practice that’s been gaining traction among the health conscious.

Walking 10,000 steps a day (equivalent to eight kilometres) is a benchmark you can use to evaluate your activity level. See how you rank on the daily activity scale of walking for fitness:

less than 5,000 = sedentary
5,000 – 7,499 = low active
7,500 – 9,999 = somewhat active
more than 10,000 = active
more than 12,500 = highly active

walking for fitness tips from a physical therapist

Walking tips from a physical therapist

Walk This Way

Alright, you might be thinking: 10,000 steps? How can I possibly walk that far in one day? Well, you’d be surprised. A daily average for healthy adults is between 6,000-7,000 steps (children on average take more than 11,000 steps a day.)

Regardless of how many (or few) steps you take now, you can take more. How? Start walking! Here’s some expert tips on how to prepare for and follow a regular walking routine:

• Get the right gear

You’ll need proper walking footwear and clothing should be weather-appropriate and lightweight, preferably wickable. Choose a reliable pedometer to count your steps (some libraries lend pedometers).

• Take time to warm up

Always stretch before you start walking. It not only warms up your walking muscles, but it helps maintain your range of motion and muscle and joint health. And it helps prevent injury. The faster you plan to walk, the longer you should spend on these flexibility exercises.

• Practice the correct way to walk

Walking technique is very important. Keep your head upright and look ahead. Keep your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Don’t forget to swing your arms with a slight angle at the elbows, and roll your feet from heel to toe.

• Make it a habit

Start by following a walking schedule. Remember, begin with a slow five-minute warm-up and end with a five-minute cool down. In between, set a pace that’s comfortable.

You should be able to carry on a conversation while breathing at an elevated rate. Over time, try to walk at least five days a week for 30 minutes.

Hooked on Walking for Fitness

So there's some basic facts about walking for fitness to get you off on the right foot. Now what? It just takes some practice but don't be surprised if you find yourself happier and healthier and looking for any excuse to go for a walk!

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Guide to Hiking for Beginners

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