With winter upon us, it is more important than ever to remember the numerous health benefits of walking. Walking is the most simple, inexpensive and culturally acceptable form of exercise. A regular walking program can be very effective in strengthening muscles and bones, assisting with weight loss, regulation of blood sugar, decreased symptomsof depression and decreased fall risk.

To be successful with your walking program, it is important to plan ahead. First, pick a safe place to walk, initially avoiding hills and uneven surfaces if you have not been walking regularly. In inclement weather, consider options to walk indoors. Purchase good walking shoes that provide adequate support and shock absorption. In order to ensure that the shoe is sufficiently wide, hold the sole of the left shoe against the sole of your bare foot. The shoe must be wider than your foot. If you tend to lose your balance as you walk, then be sure to use a properly adjusted assistive device. A cane with a tripod tip, trek poles or 4 wheeled walkers are good choices for outdoor walking.

Schedule your walk as you would any other appointment. Walking five times per week is recommended for maximum health benefits. Try to work up to walking 30 - 45 minutes at a time, gradually adding 1 - 5 minutes more to your walks each week depending on your level of fitness. You may find that enlisting the support of a walking partner may help to maximize your compliance and enjoyment. If pain is an issue, try walking every other day and apply ice to sore joints or moist heat to achy muscles after walking.

Use the following tips to improve your walking: Imagine that you  are 2 inches taller by walking with a proud chest; let your arms swing freely as you walk; reach out with your heel and push off with your toes. And, of course, don't forget to breathe, smile and enjoy the beauty around you!

Article for Nov/Dec 2014 - Walk for Success