Cardiovascular Health: Tips for Walking

We think we know best practices for walking, but most of us don’t. We have no idea how important form and details are to keeping our bodies (and hearts!) healthy. Walking is one of the best exercises for cardiovascular health, and it’s one of the easiest programs to start and maintain. Here’s how to walk correctly.

Choose the right time of day.

Which times of day are you at your best? Decide if you’d like to walk while you’re at your peak or if you’d rather use walking as a pick-me-up during another time of day. Keep weather and lighting in mind, as you may not feel safe walking at night or early in the morning due to lack of sunlight.

Wear the right shoe.

Believe it or not, the shoe you wear can make a tremendous difference in how far and how well you walk. Shoes should be in good repair, fit well, and be comfortable. If yours aren’t, it’s time to buy some new ones. Walking shoes shouldn’t need any break-in time. If they don’t feel perfect on your feet when you put them on, try another pair.

Watch your posture.

According to Dr. Eric McGraw of Wilmington, NC’s Active Care Chiropractic, many people walk incorrectly, and it hurts the body. To prevent low back pain, swing your arms as you walk. Move in an upright position with your sternum (breastbone) raised and your abdominals tightened. Walking should feel natural and uplifting to you.

Walk heel to toe.

How you put your foot down makes all the difference in how healthy your feet, ankles, and legs will be. Incorrect walking strains and tires them, while correct walking techniques strengthen them.

The basic steps are:

  • Put your weight on your heel.
  • With a rolling motion, move your weight forward onto the ball of your foot.
  • Raise your heel and push off with the toes as your other foot comes down on the heel.

Many people move into an almost running stance when they’re walking fast. This isn’t correct technique. Keep your foot on the ground and roll forward on it before you lift it.

Pace yourself.

Don’t expect to walk five miles your first day. The trick is to walk a little more each day until you’re where you want to be distance wise. A good way to start is to pick a landmark that is challenging, but not too far from your starting point.

For example, if you live six blocks from a school, walk to the far end of the school and back and see how you feel. If you don’t feel you’ve walked far enough, repeat the path. Increase the distance every day, and you’ll be shocked at how far you come in just a few weeks.