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For All Walks of Life

Why Walking Could Be the Solution to Your Fitness Dilemma.

Walk, don't run, to your local fitness store and try on a pair of walking shoes.

For cardiovascular fitness, there isn't an activity that's more sensitive to the wear and tear of your body than a stroll through the park. Aside from being a tremendous tension releaser and a great metabolism booster, walking is a great exercise to strengthen your legs, abdomen, and heart.

But before we get into the crucial elements to this growing craze, first kick off the old shoes and slide in with the new.

Walking shoes, obviously, are the walker's tools, much the way a baseball player relies on his bat and a golfer does his putter. So you can never be too choosy about what you slip your feet into.

Most importantly, perhaps, is that the shoes fit. If you seem like you may be in between shoe sizes, always choose the larger size. It is imperative that you can wiggle your toes inside your walking shoes and that you can squeeze a finger between your heel and the inside of your shoes. After securing a proper fit, it's time to hit the streets.

Stretching, of course, is the first order of business, so take a few minutes before each walk to stretch your legs properly, increasing flexibility while decreasing the risk of injury. You want to emphasize the stretch around your hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles, allowing these muscles to warm up before you begin your walk.

Walking may seem like merely an integral part of your life. You walk every day, whether it's to your car, to the mailbox, or through a shopping mall. But what many walking hopefuls don't understand is that there is an actual technique involved.

Walking is a heel-to-toe type exercise in a sense that you should always land with your weight on your heel before rolling onto the balls of the feet. Then, push off with the ball of your foot before landing on the heel of your opposite foot.

Throughout the stride, your arms should be loose and swinging with each step. Your back is straight during this and your knees are bent a tad. As you walk, your eyes should be focused straight ahead, with your chin up, your shoulders straight, and you chest pushed forward.

Your stride should be at a comfortable distance, not too short and not too long. The right stride will conserve your energy and allow you to maintain proper balance, form, and speed.

The more moderate pace for a walk is somewhere around 3 mph while a more advanced competitive walker will chug along at a 5 mph pace. Many walkers prefer to perform with weights, whether held in the hands or strapped to the legs. Before attempting this, you may want to work up such an exercise. However, walking with weights can build up strength and endurance.

Usually after the first two weeks of taking on this method of fitness, the walker will feel an increase in stamina and perhaps a loss of fat. Roads with sidewalks are ideal for the walker. That way, the walker doesn't face the danger of being struck by motor vehicles. Under circumstances where sidewalks are not present, be sure to walk on the left side of the road so you are facing the oncoming traffic.

Athletic tracks usually provide a smooth surface for the walker, but when doing so, be considerate to others. Be sure to walk on the outside lanes. The inside lanes are generally reserved for joggers and sprinters so the slower your pace, the further outside you should be.

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