Walking Benefits -Get the Most out of Walking
Walking benefits everyone and can be an easy and fun way to meet some of your health goals. Whether you are interested in losing weight, increasing your endurance or strengthening your muscles walking is something that almost everyone can do. It can be done alone, with a friend or group and you don’t have to have any previous experience in walking for exercise to get started. It can be a great cardio workout and anyone at any level can start today! With that said, you should take some common-sense precautions to avoid injuries.
Since walking is not an extremely aggressive activity, many people do not automatically associate walking with injuries. And while, to a certain extent this belief is correct (you don’t see a lot of concussions or broken bones as a result of walking) injuries can and do still occur. The most common walking injuries are:
- Shin Splints
- Patellar Tendonopathy
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome
- Stress Fracture
- Achilles Tendonopathy
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Iliotibial band syndrome
- Low Back Pain
- Ankle Sprains
- Interdigital Neurom (Morton’s Neuroma)
Selecting the Right Socks
In addition to picking good shoes, you should also select good socks for your level of activity. When choosing a sock you should make sure that the socks you wear are made from a breathable and lightweight material. They should also fit snugly. Consider wearing two pairs of socks If you are prone to blistering. This can reduce friction on your skin, which causes blisters. It is recommended that your inner pair of socks be made of a synthetic moisture wicking material. The outer layer can be either made of synthetic materials or cotton. By doubling up on socks you are encouraging the friction to occur between the two sock layers which is preferable to friction between the sock and your skin. If you are developing a hotspot (an area of potential blister soreness) it is imperative that you treat it right away. Immediately treat the area to help reduce the risk of developing a blister and save yourself from walking long distances in pain.
Do I need Walking/Hiking Poles?
While they are not necessary, many experts highly recommend using walking or hiking poles when walking. They can be particularly useful if you walk frequently, engage in hill walking, walk for long distances or have existing knee or ankle injuries. It is always better to use two poles rather than just one.
Hiking poles work by reducing the strain on the body. They are particularly effective when walking downhill. Although, when walking uphill they also help transfer a percentage of your body weight and muscle requirement to your upper limbs. This takes the totality of your body weight off of your lower extremities. Not only do hiking sticks take some of the body load off your legs and feet, using them also increases your stability. By using hiking sticks when walking, you decrease your chances of taking a fall resulting in less trauma to the bones, joints, muscles and tendons. If you are in the habit of using your poles in an aggressive fashion to plant and pull your body, you can increase the amount of calories you burn, providing a better workout to your upper body.
There are a wide selection of hiking poles available for purchase in sporting goods and adventure stores. They will vary widely in price and in quality. The kind of hiking or walking you plan to do will help you decide which poles will best suit your needs. When shopping, check with a knowledgeable employe. His or her product knowledge is invaluable when deciding on which walking poles best match your individual situation. Some general suggestions are:
- The handgrip should be comfortable. You should be able to comfortably relax your grip with your wrist in its natural resting position. If you have to strain any of your fingers, hand or wrist to grip the pole, your hand will fatigue more quickly and you are more likely to pull or strain something.
- The strap that goes around your wrist should be short enough so that your hand doesn’t slip out during your normal movement. It should also be loose enough for you to slip your hand out quickly when needed.
- If you plan to use your poles only for fitness walking, you do not need to purchase adjustable poles. Poles that adjust are generally heavier and if the adjuster isn’t properly tightened, can collapse leading to a possible injury.
- Poles with adjustable lengths are useful if you are trekking in terrains with extreme ups and downs.
- On some models, you can switch out the tips to maximize the effectiveness of the poles. If you are planning on walking on a variety of surfaces you can add rubber tips for walking on cement or baskets for walking on soft ground.