Put your best foot forward: walk safely in style
(NewsUSA) - Health advice columnists and exercise gurus often advise Americans to walk, and for good reason.Walking is the most popular form of exercise and has proven health benefits. Walking can strengthen the heart and improve circulation, lessening heart attack and stroke risk. Low-impact aerobic activity such as walking also improves muscle tone, reduces arthritic pain, lowers bad cholesterol and eases stress.
Choosing the right walking shoes can be crucial to avoid injury. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) has these tips for Americans in need of a foot-friendly walking shoe:
- Choose a light-weight shoe. Look for breathable material, like leather or nylon mesh, on the uppers. Shoes should be supportive, yet flexible.
- Choose a firm heel. You want less heel cushioning in walking shoes, so that the heel comes closer to the ground with each step, improving stability.
- Have your feet measured late in the afternoon to accommodate normal foot-swelling, and wear the type of socks that you plan to walk in. The shoe should be snug but not too tight over the sock. You should be able to wiggle your toes.
- Look for the APMA Seal of Acceptance, which indicates that a shoe has been approved for a particular activity, like walking.
When beginning a walking program, confine your walks to level stretches of flat surfaces, and avoid steep hills and embanked roadways. If you are unaccustomed to physical activity, it's important to pace yourself and to stretch before and after your walk. If possible, start off walking for 20 uninterrupted minutes three times a week. If that's too much, try walking 10 to 15 minutes until you can gradually increase your distance.
To increase your distance, you can either pre-measure a route using your car's odometer or by using Web sites such as WalkJogRun.net and MapMyRun.com. Time yourself with a wrist watch or count the number of steps you take in a 15-second period to keep a consistent pace. If you take 15 steps, you're walking about two miles an hour. At 30, your pace nears four miles an hour.
For more information about how to incorporate walking safely into your daily routine, visit the APMA Web site at www.apma.org.
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