September 18th, 2013 by

Walking is the unsung hero of free fitness.

Often people think that the only exercise that counts involves gym equipment and a brow glistening with sweat, but you may be surprised how beneficial a brisk walk could prove for your waistline, fitness and state of mind.

Walking is free, simple and sociable. All you require is a pair of good quality trainers or walking shoes, and a friend/ipod/dog. And if you commit to walking at a fast pace you could burn just as many calories as a stint in the gym, without over-exerting your joints. Plus, making a habit of walking regularly has been shown to reduce your risk of developing chronic illness such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Walking frequently is also shown to be a powerful stress-buster and sleep quality enhancer. So what are you waiting for?

Build your walking speed and distance gradually. To reap the most benefit you need to be walking a lot faster than a stroll to get your heart rate up. A really good walk constitutes moderate intensity aerobic activity. This means your heart rate increases enough to break a minor sweat. Even if power-walking to the maximum you’ll still be able to talk coherently.

The average person takes 3,000-4,000 steps a day, and a good goal to aim for is 10,000. A person weighing in at 11 stone could burn approximately 440 calories when walking a brisk 10,000 steps. 1,000 steps would take around 10 minutes at a moderate pace. Invest in a pedometer to measure your progress, and taking a bottle of water with you is advisable as ‘power walking’ can become thirsty work.

Make every step count. Walk to the shops instead of taking the car; make power-walk dates with your friends or spouse, and walk your dog at a faster pace than usual. You can even join walking groups which is fantastic idea for widening your social circle if you’ve moved to a new area or simply fancy a change. Every step is a step closer to a slimmer silhouette, a healthier heart and a clearer head.

If you are not particularly active and want to embark on a new walking routine, ensure that you begin slowly and don’t push yourself. You can begin with a few mini-walks a day, just focus on moving at a faster pace than a casual stroll. At the end of your walk, slow the pace down again as a warm-down. You might like to do a few stretches too in order to improve flexibility and promote fitness.

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