With the warm weather and sunshine finally here, thoughts will turn to travel, spring cleaning, house projects, gardening...and exercise. There are many people who find winter a hard time to keep up with a regular exercise regime. The snow and cold is an obstacle for some people, both physically and psychologically. Indoor exercise is not appealing to others.
But for all of us who have found many reasons to keep from exercising these past months, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that getting yourself moving is as easy as lacing on your shoes and walking down the street. The bad news is that you are out of excuses for sitting on the couch.
It's So, So Good for YouBefore beginning any exercise program, Valley View Hospital recommends that you see your family physician for a complete physical and make him/her aware that you plan to begin a regular exercise program. Your physician will be able to determine if there are any special risk factors associated with exercise for you and help you to determine which course of exercise might be the best for you.
Many physicians recommend walking as a moderate form of aerobic exercise. Like all forms of aerobic activity, walking is good for you in many ways. It is an excellent way to shed unwanted pounds. Whether a slow stroll or a brisk, arm-pumping stride, walking burns calories at any speed. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and cover a mile in 15 minutes (that's about 4 miles an hour), you burn about 110 calories. But even at a slower pace,you'll get the same calorie-burning benefit in just a mile and one-tenth.
There are other benefits, as well. Walking is easy in the back, hips, knees and ankles. Obviously, walking trims and tones your legs, but the fat-trimming benefits don't stop there. It increases your metabolism and decreases body fat from your entire body...arms, stomach, thighs. It can even reduce stress, give you a more positive outlook on life and increase your overall energy level.
In addition, the pounds you burn are fat. When you diet without exercising, up to 30 percent of every pound you lose is muscle. A recent study showed that even heart muscle was lost when dieters did not exercise. However, walking helps you maintain lean body mass and lose only fat.
While you are walking, your body increases its calorie burning. This increased metabolism continues, even after you are through walking, burning calories at a higher level for hours.
It's So, So Easy
The best thing about walking is that it is so easy to fit into your daily life. One regular walker says, "I really don't have an excuse not to do it. I can walk downtown for my errands, walk with a friend for recreation and walk to clear my mind. When you think of all of the time you spend trying to relax in ways that aren't good for you (the television, snacking, having a beer), you know you have at least 30 minutes a day to do something really good for yourself."
The only equipment you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and a little time. Walking also allows the time to really look at your world. It slows you down to see the crocuses starting to come up, the children in your neighborhood growing and the many small pleasures of life around you.
If you like to walk a specific distance but like to explore different routes, go to the high school track and walk one mile (four laps on the inside lane) and measure the time it takes to do this. Then wherever you are, you can walk that amount of time and you have walked one mile. As your ability increases, you may want to periodically update your time for a mile on the track.
- Exercise in areas that are free of obstacles, such as: interfering dogs, traffic, slippery patches, uneven ground, rocks, etc.
- Do not exercise immediately after meals; wait at least one hour.
- If you develop any pain or discomfort, you should check with your physician before continuing your exercise program.
- You should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising; if not, you are pushing too hard and need to slow down.
- Wear comfortable clothing that allows free movement and is appropriate for the weather. Good shoes are recommended.
- Avoid exercising outdoors in extreme temperatures.
If you experience any of the following, stop your exercise and check with your physician before continuing:
- Excessive fatigue
- Chest pain
- Light headedness/dizziness
- Irregularity of pulse
- Pronounced shortness of breath
- Any new joint, muscle or ligament problem