1.INEXPENSIVE All you need to get started is a good pair of walking shoes. Now I'm not going to tell you these are cheap — good ones can run you more than $100. But compared to the cost of other sports or joining a fitness club, this is a relatively affordable. You should also get a pair of sunglasses that provide UV protection and have polarized lenses. Wear these not only while walking but whenever you venture outdoors. No other equipment is needed, except maybe a pedometer (about fifteen bucks). They count your steps and can help motivate you to walk more. Other than that: socks, shorts, a shirt — stuff you already have. And a hat to protect you from the sun. Oh, and bring your cell phone just in case. You never know when you may need it.
2.EASY We all learned how to walk a long time ago, unless there are some one-year-old's reading my blog. All you need to do, after getting the proper equipment, is properly stretch your legs (to avoid cramps or pulled muscles) and choose a good route. Stretching is important. I stretch every day before my two-mile walk and have, thus far (knock on wood), never had any leg problems. If you're just starting to exercise or have some ailment, please check with your doctor. Make sure you loosen up your hamstrings and calves, ankles, and knees. For more on stretching, visit my website and watch my video about walking. As for choosing a route, I like to take the same route each day so I don't have to think about where I'm going. This allows me to relax, let my mind run free, and enjoy the experience. Others may want more diversity and opt to have several different routes. Just be sure the route is safe, has plenty of shade, and is generally familiar.
3.VITAMIN D There is a fine line between getting too much sun and not enough. While you should always be aware and protective of melanoma by wearing a hat and long sleeves, the right amount of sun, and the vitamin D that comes with it, is vital to your wellbeing. The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays that produce vitamin D. 10-15 minutes of exposure to the sun is sufficient time to get your daily dosage of vitamin D without risking overexposure and skin cancer. It is a paradoxical challenge, but one worth looking into. Don't take my word for it—ask your doctor, especially if you have sensitive skin or a history of skin cancer. But you do need vitamin D. Among its many benefits is improved bone density and lowering the risk of colon and breast cancer. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with heart disease, cancer, depression, diabetes, hypertension, even obesity. So, walking is sounding better and better, isn't it?
4.SOCIABLE Walking is one of the best social exercises, one where you can actually hold a conversation with your walking budding without gasping for air, like in an aerobics class. Some people enjoy walking in groups, and those can help inspire and motivate. Or just an after dinner stroll with your significant other offers significant benefits. Me, I walk all by myself, but I don't mind—I'm usually holding a video camera and talking to myself.
5.SPIRITUAL Depending on where you are walking, and how serene or quiet it is, a nice walk can be good for the soul. My daily route takes me through winding paths with lots of trees and a scenic pond, away from traffic sounds—I tend to relax, commune with nature, and allow myself a time to reflect on things. Try it. If your are walking but remain uptight, you may need to rethink your route.
6.HEALTHY It's about time I talked about the myriad health benefits of walking. You burn calories, exercise your legs and lower torso. And if you take along a set of light dumbbells, you can even work your upper torso. Any form of exercise is good for you, but walking is easy on the body and still quite beneficial. Depending on your pace, you can get a decent cardio workout. And there's nothing wrong with breathing in good, clean air every day.
7.AGELESS As I already mentioned, most of us have been walking since we were toddlers. And unless you are hampered by injury or illness, walking has no age barrier. From one to one hundred. Just be sure to select an easy route if you are out of shape or up there in age. But no matter how old you are, get out there and walk.
8.SAFE As long as you stretch properly and avoid dangerous routes, walking is one of the safest forms of exercise there is. It is also, as previously mentioned, easy on the bones and muscles, compared to other forms of exercise—just make sure you buy a good pair of walking shoes. You can walk at your own pace, in a group, down a familiar path and improve your health and your life.
9.UNIVERSAL You can walk anywhere, anytime, indoors or out. Using a treadmill or walking up and down the stairs inside your office building. Speaking of offices—you can walk around the building during your lunch break. The only thing stopping you is you. So, walk anywhere, anytime, anyplace.
10.FUN Hey, walking is more fun that most exercises. And when you look at all of the healthy benefits I have shown you, it's also very good for you too. Get out and walk, every day, and you will be glad you did.
Until next time…