Do you know the simplest form of exercise anyone can do? If you answered walking, then you got it right.
Just about anyone, young and old at any level of fitness, walk – and by taking that up a notch, you got yourself an exercise routine.
You can be an athlete in top form looking for a low-intensity exercise or a middle-aged person who wants to stay fit and healthy.
Walking is an easy way to get moving for most of us who are trapped in a sedentary lifestyle. Numerous studies have shown the benefits that walking can do for our health. It improves blood circulation, strengthens bones, joints and muscles, and even helps lighten up your mood.
On a daily basis, devoting at least thirty minutes a day to walking should energize your body to be productive throughout the rest of the day. If you are really serious in becoming more physically active through walking, here’s a mix of things to do and a few tips while you are at it.
Planning for Regular Walking
There are a few things to keep in mind before beginning a light morning workout. Below are the things you should do before even going out for a walk.
Make it a morning habit
Stop snoozing your alarm and spending more time in bed than necessary.
It's time for a new habit, so get up and stretch. Wake up those sleepy muscles.
Prep for your morning walk and make sure you block out a good 30 minutes every day, no excuses!
Put it first thing in the morning so you’d less likely to skip it. If you create a walking routine then you will be more likely to succeed.
Take someone with you
I’m pretty sure you know somebody who’s in for a morning exercise any day with you.
It could be your spouse, your best friend, or a neighbour.
Walking with a buddy can also be a safer option especially if your route includes areas that are isolated or have very little foot traffic.
Walking with someone also helps you stay motivated and committed.
Another option is to walk with your four-legged friends. They make a great walking companion.
Holding your pet’s leash adds resistance to your walking exercise. This means you’d be burning calories more just like holding weights.
Invest in essentials
It is advised to use proper sporting wear appropriate for walking or running.
At the very least, invest in a good pair of walking shoes as it is perhaps the most important gear you will need to use, helping to avoid injury and blisters.
You'll want to invest in proper clothing to ensure that you are comfortable while walking.
Getting a pedometer to track your daily progress can also be another item in your walking list. It's fun to track your progress.
Meanwhile, if you have gait problems, it’s best to consult your doctor to get an orthotic to avoid aggravating the condition. There are also walking shoes that are designed to assist in helping gait problems such as overpronation and supination (or underpronation).
Empty is a no-no
When you start planning a walking routine, chances are, you’d probably make the common mistake most people do in starting a morning habit.
Never forget to feed your body with plenty of carbohydrates to fuel your brisk walks.
One of the benefits of walking is weight loss as you burn those calories with every step.
However, if you are not looking to lose weight, walking on an empty stomach may not be as healthy as you think.
So make sure you eat a balanced breakfast before heading out.
It’s important to stay hydrated while walking since water is lost as you sweat. Make sure you drink a glass of water before heading out.
It’s also advised that you bring a water bottle with you on your walk and to drink a cup for every mile walked.
And when you’re done walking, make sure you drink yet another glass.
Lastly, before you begin, take the time to do your warm-up exercises.
A few stretches and joint rotations should prepare your body for your morning walk. This is also essential to reduce injury during exercise.
Stretches like the calf stretch and leg swings are essential to condition the lower body.
Ten or so repetitions on each side should get your heart rate up enough for you to smoothly start brisk walking.
Things To Do While Walking
Now that you are well prepared for your walk, here are more tips on what to do while walking.
Walk to the beat of your choice
There’s a bit of irony in walking such that we call it a way of being physically active, yet walking is a static, steady-paced exercise. You’d likely want to finish sooner before you even break a sweat.
This is where music comes in. I recommend that you walk to the beat of your choice, plug some earphones in and listen to your favourite upbeat song.
Don't choose a hard pumping one, but rather something with a sprightly tune to bring spring to your steps.
This will not only help you keep up with the recommended walking speed but will also keep your walk fun and interesting.
Remember to walk fairly briskly!
Mind your posture
We all know that the walking exercise is easy as pie, but almost half of those who started to take their steps tend to finish early than the recommended length of exercise.
Why? Because they get exhausted sooner as a result of a bad walking posture.
Like running, there is a proper form that people should follow in order to get the most out of their exercise.
Not only does it help you exercise longer and reduce injury, but also a way to build a strong foundation to achieve your fitness goals.
So start right, stay strong, and be well.
Plan alternative routes
Having at least two different routes in your area would be a good idea, and if you can have more, the better! It will keep you walks fun, interesting and challenging.
You can have an ‘easy’ walk route on a levelled pavement or a ‘difficult’ walk route going uphill and downhill.
You can also have the ‘scenic’ route going through a wooded part of the park and a ‘practical’ route that takes you to the farmer’s market for some fresh produce.
You can explore new roads that are safe, accessible, yet challenging.
Some people vary their routes from time to time to challenge their bodies from walking in a plain, straightforward path to terrain or uphill trail.
Run some errands
Though this is not really a staple item in things to do while walking, I just included this to put a little punchline on the list.
While you show yourself out the door, save time by completing micro-tasks while on your morning walk.
Maybe you want fresh flowers for the office or you need to pick up a package or drop by the farmer’s market, then you can slot it in while walking.
You won’t have to schedule a separate time for these errands thus freeing you up for other stuff.
Listen to audiobooks
Because we can’t be reading while walking, switching to audiobooks is the next best thing.
Audiobooks are basically talking books you can play on your mp3 player or phone.
They are a great way to catch up on your reading – talk about hitting two birds with one stone!
You could set your reading schedule with your morning exercise routine so that when you are trying to finish a book, you’d have to listen to it only while walking.
Listen to podcasts
Podcasts are another way to learn audibly while on the go.
You can subscribe to a ton of shows online, from comedy to sports, society and culture, business, news and politics, pop culture, TV and film.
You can check out SoundCloud, podOmatic, BlogTalkRadio and even on Spotify for a long list of podcasts to choose from, both free and paid.
Listening to podcasts is a great way to balance intellectual development and multitask physical activity to keep us mentally sharp and physically active.
Talk to family and friends
Catch up on family members or friends while walking.
Call your mom and ask how she’s been, or your friend who recently started on a new job in a new city – sometimes voices of people who matter to us are all we need to get the day started on a good note.
And it would be a good idea to get yourself one of those Bluetooth earpieces to avoid having to hold your phone all the time.
Track your progress and set new goals
Are you walking faster? Are you making more steps? Are you walking more miles?
Tracking your progress is important in keeping you motivated. As you take more steps and walk more miles, set new goals and work hard to achieve them.
As you break your milestones, create new ones and carry on. You’ll be quite surprised at how far who have come.
As the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Plan out the rest of the day
Your morning walk is also a good opportunity to see things in perspective and plan out your day accordingly.
You can go over your to-do list and re-arrange tasks as needed.
Everything just seems to fall into place after a good night’s sleep and a deep breath of fresh morning air, don’t you think?
A time to reconnect
The time you spend on a morning walk could also be a time for you to reconnect with nature or with yourself – for meditation.
If you often go solo, it’s that time of the day to let go of negativity and be ready to start anew.
The time to reflect on how blessed you are despite all the setbacks. Yet another time to realize how grateful you should be and to commit to paying it forward.
Some would prefer to do this at night when they meditate before going to bed, but there’s a reason why it is called a restart, that means, it’s just right to do it first thing of the day.
Just enjoy the moment
Lastly, don’t forget to have fun walking your way to fitness.
The time you had to spend with nature, with your dog, or with a friend will always be a moment to remember.
Do things that should keep your moments interesting!
Take a selfie with your buddy while you walk and then post it to your Instagram story to keep you motivated to go for another mile.
When the morning sky gets a little surreal, take a picture, and make it your wallpaper, to remind you of how beautiful nature really is and be moved to do it again.
What to do After You've Walked
Of course, if there are lists of things to do before and during the walk, there are also a few more steps to take after the workout.
Before you began your exercise, you were required to warm up the body before going on a walk.
Now that you have just completed your morning routine, the next step would be to allow your high pulse rate to return to its normal beating.
To prevent injury, never skip warm up and cool down exercises.
Reward yourself with a healthy snack
After burning off calories, it is essential to replenish the energy you have used.
Please bust the myth that eating after exercising is wrong. It only goes wrong if the choice of food is not right.
After half an hour of walking, you should have burnt at least 50 calories, hence you should supply yourself with good amounts of protein to regain energy and build muscle.
This could be banana with peanut butter or Greek yoghurt with bits your favourite fruit. Sadly a bar of chocolate or slab of that cookie cake is not on the list of healthy options though, no matter how far you've walked!
Take a shower
A few people might see this as a dangerous idea. But you know what?
It's not if you do it correctly!
After your cool-down exercises, snack and a glass of water (or about 20 minutes), you are now ready for a nice shower.
Water temperature should not be either too cold or too hot, make sure it’s just right.
Do let your body recover to its normal respiratory state before you shower though. It gives time for your body to stop sweating and makes your shower worthwhile!