Getting started with walking

Walking is one of the most rewarding forms of exercise. It’s healthy, accessible and cheaper than most other forms of physical activity. All that’s needed is a good pair of walking shoes and the will to put one foot in front of the other – the more briskly, the better.

Walking is a fun activity for everyone at any age or fitness level, but if you have not exercised for a long time, or are a male over 45 years or female over 55 years it’s best to go for a medical check-up before you start on your walking routine.  If you have a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, a medical check-up before you start is also a good idea.

- To get the most enjoyment out of walking, and to avoid any injuries, you should make sure your walking shoes are comfortable, as this can cause painful blisters and foot injuries.  Your shoes should provide good shock absorption, so if you’ve had yours for a while or they are worn out – it’s best to invest in a new pair.  Just remember to wear them in first before wearing them at a walking event to make sure they’re snug and comfy for your feet and won’t cause you any blisters.

- For your safety, if your shoes are not reflective, aim to wear a reflective jacket so that you are visible to other walkers, cyclists and drivers, and plan to walk in a group rather than on your own.

- Use your walking training as an opportunity to also focus on healthy eating.  Good nutritional habits can not only help prevent chronic diseases and help you manage your weight, but it can also improve your walking performance.  Aim to include a variety of whole foods with plenty of fruit and vegetables.

- Don’t make walking just a once-off activity at the Discovery Cape Times Big Walk– aim to stay active throughout the year, getting the whole family involved from the kids to the grandparents, friends and colleagues.  By getting your friends and family off the couch, you’ll be giving them the greatest gift.

Recommended stretches

To optimise your performance and avoid injury, you should always start and end any physical activity with a warm-up and stretches.  Aim to spend 5-10 minutes before you start on your activity to make sure that all your muscle groups are warmed up and primed for exercise, and stretch at the end for 5-10 minutes to improve your flexibility and decrease your risk of injury.

- Quadriceps stretch: Stand straight with one leg bent. Grasp the foot of your other leg with your hand and slowly pull your heel to your buttocks. You should feel the stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat the stretc hfour to six times.

- Calf stretch: Stand with your hands against a wall and one leg behind the other. With your back leg straight, your heel flat on the floor and your foot pointed straight ahead, lean slowly forward, bending the other leg. You should feel the stretch in the middle of your calf. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch six to eight times.

- Hamstring stretch: Sit with one leg straight and the other leg bent. With your back straight and your head up, slowly lean forward at your waist. You should feel the stretch along the underside of your thigh. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch six to eight times.

 On the day

- On the day of the walk, eat a good healthy breakfast to keep your sugar levels balanced and don’t forget to take a few healthy snacks along on the walk, such as unsalted nuts, fresh fruit and raisins to keep your energy levels up as you walk.

- Drink enough water during the walk to keep yourself hydrated.  During the walk, aim to drink to thirst, rather than a specific volume – and clean fresh water is all you need to keep you hydrated

- Wear comfortable clothes, dress in layers and remember to apply sun-block to your skin and wear a hat in very sunny weather.  These items will make your walk even more enjoyable.

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