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Walking and Running For Exercise

You may think you know it all about walking and running—after all, you’ve been doing both your whole life. But walking and running as exercise are very different from the actions as physical transportation. If you’re a beginner, you’ll need to know how to start. And if you’ve been a longtime walker or runner, it never hurts to refresh.

Benefits: Walking and running are two of the easiest, cheapest, and most easily-accomplished exercises available to us. Running is basically just an accelerated version of walking, so the benefits are the same: A full-bodied exercise that burns fat by getting the heart rate up. Ideally, if you do it outside, you’ll also get fresh air and soak up Vitamin D from the sun.

Before you start: First and most importantly, make sure you have good-quality supportive footwear. Walking/running shoes are best, but unless you’re training for a race, you don’t need anything particularly fancy.

Second, make sure you properly warm up for roughly five minutes before setting off for a jog or run. Walking lunges, leg swings and calf raises warm up the muscles in your legs, and arm circles and torso rotations get your upper body ready to go. All of these simple movements will loosen your muscles and help prevent pain or injury.

During: Setting a goal each time you go out may be the way to go for some. It can be distance-related (I will run 2 kilometers) or time-related (I will walk without stopping for 20 minutes), but setting a goal makes it more likely you’ll see it through.

Also, check your heart rate periodically. Ideally, it will stay between 55% to 75% of your Max Heart Rate (which you can find by subtracting your age from 220), as this is the prime fat-burning range of exertion. A quick, rough-and-ready way of determining your heart rate (and thus, your effort) is to count your heart beats for six seconds, then multiply by 10.

Whenever possible, walk out of doors. While heat and traffic sometimes make walking and running on the streets unenjoyable, finding a park or promenade within easy driving distance can help alleviate the frustration of outside exercise. I would recommend indoor walking or running on a treadmill only as a last resort. Treadmills are to walking or running what escalators are to stairs; they don’t give you as good a workout. Wherever possible, walk or run up hills and inclines and on uneven surfaces, to maximize your workout.

After a work-out: After a walk or a run, be sure to stretch out the muscles you used in order to avoid stiffness and injury. Toe touches are one of the best stretches, but any stretch that pulls gently at the hamstrings (back of thighs), quads (front of thighs), glutes (butt muscles), and calves will be helpful, too.

Also consider: Consider walking or running with a friend, as these activities don’t prevent socialization. Pass the time with by conversing and encourage each other when you feel tired. If none of your friends are interested, check your city for a walking or running club.

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