Pat Henry: Sometimes you've got to walk before you can run
Pat Henry talks you through the first steps on path to fitness
Rather than jumping in the deep end and going too hard in the gym, I think it's always a good idea for those who want to lose weight to begin by including some brisk walking in their daily routine.
Over-training in the first few weeks of a "new you" can lead to injury and can also turn you off your training. A little soreness is fine, but not so sore that you can't move. So if exercise is new to you or you haven't been active in a long time, I would recommend bringing it back to something a little more realistic for you. Try 30 minutes of fast-paced walking every single day.
Walking is one of the best exercises you can do. It strengthens the cardiovascular system, tones muscles of the lower body, increases flexibility, reduces stress and burns fat.
It also causes a minimum amount of stress to the body compared with higher-intensity activities such as running. A walker's foot receives around one to 1.5 times the body weight each time it strikes the ground. Compare that with running which places three to five times the body weight with each stride. This means fewer injuries for you.
Walking a mile burns the same number of calories as lightly jogging a mile. Brisk walking with a moderate 10-degree incline burns more calories than jogging five miles or 8km/h.
Fitness walking is often used by athletes as a component of an effective cross-training programme. It complements cycling, swimming and running and goes especially well with a weight-training programme and is an ideal choice for losing excess fat. Walking burns fat as an energy source where other activities will run on carbohydrate, which burns short-term energy.
One hour of brisk walking burns an average of 348 calories. Walk briskly and change your stride every mile to avoid back or hip strain. By changing stride it also helps to firm the legs and the bottom. Try walking heel to toe rather then shuffling your feet along. Walking correctly will help make your journey easier and avoid shin and calf strain.
Try walking at a pace of 4-5mph or 6-7.5kph for 30 minutes a day. This means really pushing the pace, lengthening your strides and working your arms. If you find this too easy, try breaking into a light trot, holding that pace for as long as you can. When you really need to stop, come back to a walk until your breathing has returned to normal. Once you are feeling okay again, try another bit of a run. Slowly progress over a six to eight-week period until you can comfortably run 30 minutes.
Make it enjoyable. Find a route that is good for you - if you live near a beach or even a park, somewhere that has clean and fresh air. Treat yourself to a good pair of runners or walking shoes and don't use shoes that are ancient or hurt your feet.
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