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Walking your way to better health
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HEALTH MATTERS

Walking your way to better health

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With summer just around the corner, you may have decided to make some changes to improve your physical fitness. A walking program is one of the easiest ways to get started.

Regular walking allows you to take control of your health and enjoy great benefits.

If you have not been doing much exercise leading up to this big decision, you may feel a little sore when you start walking more. This is totally normal. Don’t fret; it will get better quickly.

Keep walking and you will begin building endurance in your muscles, which means you can do more because your muscles will be getting stronger. You may lose weight and you may sleep better. Many people who walk regularly report an improvement in their mood, a loss of inches around the waist, and a sense of having more energy.

Don’t let the weather be a deterrent; we live in a fantastic state with magical seasons. Get out and enjoy the weather. Layering your clothing is super important when you venture outdoors in Montana. Layering allows you to adjust for temperature changes in your body during exercise. A good layering technique could start with a T-shirt, light sweatshirt, and, finally, a jacket. If it’s cold out, grab some gloves and a hat.

Here are some tips and tricks to getting started on an enjoyable walk:

• Wear comfortable shoes.

• Consider starting with a 30-minute walk. However, if you cannot do 30 minutes to begin with, break it into more manageable chunks. Start out with 10-15 minutes and slowly increase to 30. Maybe add a minute each week to lengthen the time.

• Start with a manageable route near your home. This will make it easy to walk out the door and get going.

• As you become more comfortable, change your route, add interval training, or throw in an occasional hill.

By changing your route you will keep your body guessing as to what is next. Many times individuals walk the same route over and over. Our bodies become accustomed to this route and go on cruise control. Surprise your system with changing routes.

Try interval training. For example, after you have been walking for five minutes do the next minute at a faster pace. Then slow down for a minute, Continue this one minute quick, one minute rest for 10-15 minutes, then finish your walk with 5-7 minutes of winding down.

Don’t be afraid to drive to a location that is a bit hilly and try a route that incorporates hills into the walk. Hills provide an opportunity to elevate the heart rate and fatigue the big leg muscles called the quads.

Lastly, once you have completed your walk, spend some time cooling down and stretching out the muscles. Walking can make the back and legs feel tight, this is normal. Stretch these muscle groups while you are nice and warm. Hamstring stretches, seated figure four, leg swings, and gentle back stretches will feel good.

To do a hamstring stretch while seated:

1. Sit on the edge of a chair. Then straighten one leg in front of you with the heel on the floor.

2. Sit tall to straighten your back. And gently lean forward. You will feel this in the back of straight leg.

3. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat three times for each leg.

You can find diagrams of other stretches on the internet by googling the name of the stretch.

Walking is an easy self-care program. Don’t wait, get out and get moving.

Ryan W. Braley, American College of Sports Medicine-Certified Personal Trainer, is the wellness service manager at RiverStone Health Clinic. He can be reached at 406-247-3249 or ryan.bra@riverstonehealth.org.

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