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Stride To Fitness: Costs Nothing!!

Thursday, January 29th, 2009 Stride To Fitness: Costs Nothing!!

It has been argued that walking, not only costs nothing and suits every level of fitness, it is actually more effective than we think according to Rob Sharp of the Guardian (27 01 09).

Moreover, learning a few simply techniques will improve your health. Indeed putting one leg in front of the other is actively the way forward.

Walking 10,000 steps a day, or five miles, can give you a healthy heart and reduce your body fat. It’s good for your circulation and lungs, and can improve your cardiovascular fitness. the NHS advise.

“We emphasise that to do walks close to your house you need no special walking gear or shoes. Virtually anyone can do it,” says Moira Halstead, promotions manager for Walking the Way to Health, a government organisation that promotes healthy walking. “In financially strapped times like these, you can save money on petrol, gyms and buses and get fit in the process,” she says. “Everyone can go at their own pace. Even the slowest walker can do it and not hold other people back, as might happen in other sports.”

It is worthy of noting that walking will boost the activity of the muscles of our lower body and in so doing will help build them up. Bone density will also improve as it is specifically a weight bearing activity. As it is low impact, it therefore does not place unnecessary burden on the joints.

It is advised that the best way to exercise is to team up with a friend and with reference to Martin Christie, a London-based personal trainer who specialises in the pole-based Nordic walking. “All the studies show that if you go out with someone else you are much more likely to stick to it. Get a friend, choose which type of walking you want to exercise with, and then go for it.”

The health benefits are notable, walking is known to reduce the risk of coronary disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis. It can help you to cope with anxiety and stress. In the recent climate, walking can only be a good thing.

One useful aspect with regards to walking is that it can be built into your daily routine. This can be achieved say for example incorporating a longer walk into your daily commute. Taking a walk after a meal will actually cut the amount of fat the body will store.

There are also a number of types of walking if you would like to step up a level or two, in the pursuit of greater fitness.

An Overview is with regards to the different techniques is now relevant and for the purposes of this article, four specific walking types will be identified, namely, Nordic Walking; Pacer poling and Power walking.

Firstly, Nordic walking primarily is about propelling yourself along with the help of hand-held poles angled back at about 45 degrees. The purpose allows the person to move faster by taking the load away from the knees and hips and bringing the upper body into play, so making the exercise more comfortable.

It is also easy to make basic mistakes ie like moving the same-side arm and leg at the same time, but I was soon able to get into a basic rhythm. According to Sharp who says, but he was soon able to get into a basic rhythm. He quickly felt the pull on his upper body, and the poles aided his natural walking motion. “Because we are using our body above the waist, it works the back, chest, arms and stomach,” Christie explains. “And, as it uses more muscles, it burns 20 per cent more calories, which increases to 46 per cent with good technique.”

Significantly, move the poles in a natural movement, angling them back, and with the arms relatively straight. Then, swing the arms from the shoulders rather than bending the elbows. Crucially, make sure that you move your left arm forward along with the right leg, and vice-versa – and then work yourself as hard as you can.

Pacer poling is the next technique to be addressed. Similar to Nordic walking, though a different pole is used. A ergonomically designed handle makes the extension of your arm and the handling of the pole much easier, and allows you to propel yourself more efficiently. Essentially, what you are getting is more power for less effort, and this puts less strain on your body.

According to Christie who says, “Lots of people find the handle more comfortable,” Christie says. “There’s no strap [which Nordic poles have], so you can pick it up and go straight away.” He says that many people find the technique easier to learn than other forms of “equipment assisted” walking. “As with Nordic walking, in a single session you should be able to learn all the basics you need.”

Power walking is probably the most familiar to us all. Simply it is about walking at speed closer to the upper end of the natural speed range for the walking gait. At such speeds, jogging and power walking burn roughly the same amount of energy. Many people opt for speed walking rather than jogging, as the walking gait creates less impact on the joints.

Christie says, “The great thing about this is that you don’t need any walking equipment, he adds, “You just get a pair of trainers and away you go. It’s a more vigorous use of your upper body and so will increase calorie consumption.”

Power walking is much easier than jogging. The pull on the arms begins to strain after a while, though, without the added propulsion from using the poles. “You can carry a couple of bottles or weights to increase the intensity of the exercise,” Christie says. “Then, begin to swing your arms faster, and your legs will move more quickly.

“You could, after a five-minute warm-up, time yourself on a route you know well, walk it regularly, and then time yourself again six weeks later and see how you are improving.”

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