Weatherford Democrat

March 23, 2014

EXTENSION NEWS: Walking is wonderful


Weatherford Democrat

— By KATHY SMITH

With the weather getting warmer and days longer, now is the time to get outside to walk.

Walking can be done by anyone. It is recommended that everyone exercise at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. Walking is one way to exercise. Walking for just 15 minutes has been shown to have a calming affect that lasts more than one hour. After just six weeks, a progressive walking program can result in significant physical improvements. As with any exercise, it is important to check with your physician before beginning. Start slow to prevent injury and muscle soreness.

Walking is an aerobic exercise that is good for your heart. Walking improves the cardiovascular system that includes the heart, lungs and circulatory system. Walking exercises the heart by increasing the number of beats per minute. An aerobic walking program lowers the heart rates because the heart becomes more efficient, even at rest.

The results of walking can be documented by keeping track of your pulse. To take your pulse, place your first two fingers (not your thumb) on the thumb side of your wrist below your wrist bone. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats for 10 seconds and then multiply that by six to find out how many times per minute your heart beats. To receive maximum benefits, your heart rate needs to be in the target heart range. To find out your range, subtract your age from 220. Multiply that result by 0.70 and 0.80. Those two numbers will represent the low and high of your target heart rate range.

Before any exercise it is important to warm up stiff muscles. Begin with a slow walk 5 to 10 minutes. After you have completed the slow walk, you can begin stretching. There are two steps to stretching properly in the easy stretch. Stretch to a point where you feel mild tension, relax and hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Gently proceed further into the second portion of the stretch by moving a fraction of an inch, until you again begin to feel tension and hold for 10 to 30 seconds. You should feel the tension gradually. Noe you are ready to walk.

Follow these hints as you begin your walking program:

• Set aside a certain time during the week for your exercise.

• Avoid exercising after eating.

• Wear shoes that provide a good support.

• Dress more lightly than usual for the weather because exercising will raise your body temperature. You might want to dress in layers that can be removed when you warm up.

• During hot weather, walk in the evening and early morning to avoid the heat and use sunscreen to protect your skin.

• Walk with someone to make the walking more pleasurable.

Here are some steps for walking correctly:

• Move at a steady, comfortable pace. Check your pulse to see if you are hitting your target heart rate.

• Hold your head high and keep your back straight. Move your feet in a straight line while moving your arms in rhythm to your steps.

• Land on your heel. Roll forward and push off from the balls of your fee.

• Take easy, comfortable strides.

• Breathe deeply, breathing through your mouth.

Participate in the Walk Across Texas Challenge. Walk Across Texas – Parker County will begin April 6 and run through May 25. You can do it as a group or individually. Visit walkacrosstexas.tamu.edu. Let’s see how many miles we can walk in Parker County.