Walking toward better health

April 19, 2009 5:40:50 AM PDT
April is National Walking Month and the weather has made it perfect to go out and enjoy a good stroll. But, you may not be taking the steps for your best health. Lifestyle and fitness expert and author of "Sexy in 6," Tracey Mallet, joined us this morning with tips for walking correctly. What are the benefits of walking and what tools do I need to start a walking workout?
The number one benefit is that anyone can walk at anytime and anyplace making walking the most versatile form of exercise you can perform.
1. Prevents type 2 diabetes. By losing just 7% of your body weight (12-15 pounds) can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%.
2. Strengthens your heart and improves your cardiovascular fitness.
3. Slows down the rate of bone loss preventing osteoporosis

The most important tools to invest in are a pair of supportive walking shoes which have a good arch support to prevent injuries such as plantar fasciitis, pain and inflammation in the arches of the feet and also reduces the impact on your joints such as the ankle, knee and hip. A Pedometer is also a great tool to count your steps and keep you accountable to a daily accumulative goal of 10,000 steps a day. This equals four miles or around 450 calories that can lead to a significant amount of weightloss.

What exercises can we do to condition our bodies for walking?
The following exercises will condition the body to walk safely without injury.
Standing Side Lift which focuses on strengthening the glutes especially the glute medius which is responsible for stabilizing the pelvis and decreases the work load of the lower back.
Calf Raises the calves are the number one walking muscles, they're extremely important to strengthen for endurance and efficiency.
Classic Squats you're working multi muscle groups together for overall strength in the lower body giving you power to walk the hills with ease.
Always stretch out the lower body muscles after your walk and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds for any kind of benefit.

How should I progress my walking workouts if you're new walking?
First, set your walk for about 15-20 minutes. If you're feeling pretty good and no aches or pains, you can gradually extend the time by 5 minutes every week. I would recommend you to be walking 3-4 times a week for best results.

How about an experienced walker?
Now for people who are avid walkers and are looking to add some challenge to their workout, I suggest you add some intervals into your walk. This is when you increase your pace and maybe add more intensity with your arms by making bigger movements for a short period of time. Start off with five minutes at a normal pace, then add a one minute interval. Increase to two minute intervals as you get stronger.

For more on this, visit www.traceymallett.com.