A poll for the health club industry found 74% of respondents felt they were generally satisfied with their health, however federal statistics say that 55% of Americans are too fat and that more than 60% do not get enough physical exercise. The Roper Starch Worldwide survey attempted to understand why some people don’t exercise. Three groups tend not to exercise:
- The first group, which made up 14%, wanted a magic pill that could substitute for exercise. They did not see exercise as a waste of time, but they didn’t feel a lot of guilt about not exercising, either.
- The next group made up12% and were the people who just can’t commit. They know they should exercise and fell guilty that they don’t.
- The last group made up 13% and these people thought exercise was unnecessary so they didn’t exercise at all.
Of the people who did think exercise was important the following groups were isolated:
- 13% felt that exercise helps their bodies and attitude toward life.
- A second group, who sound a lot like us, exercise for health reasons, to keep healthy and for weight control.
- Finally there are the youngsters of the group who took risks but who did so to gain friends and “fun”.
So, if you are not exercising where do you fit in the survey? Or do you have other reasons? If you do exercise, do you want to make yourself more healthy, forestall heart disease and diabetes, or are you out there rock climbing with the kids? If you are one of those people who think exercise is too hard or time consuming, just read on.
The Associated Press reported a new study just last week. It talks about the relationship between walking and heart disease and it concludes that it doesn’t take a lot of exercise to reduce the risk of heart disease-an hours’ walk will be enough. The study published in JAMA is not meant to encourage laziness. What it does show is that a little exercise is better than none. What researchers found is that for women, they can benefit even with less than 30 minutes of brisk walking on most days of the week, the level that current federal guidelines consider minimum.
Researchers looked at 39,372 health professionals, ages 45 and older that kept track of their health status in a project called the Women’s Health Study. These women were followed for an average of 5 years and found 244 cases of coronary heart disease. The study did find that women who did more vigorous exercise had a lower risk of heart disease.
Among women who did not do vigorous exercise, those who at least walked an hour during the week had a lower risk than that faced by sedentary women. Researchers hoped that these results will help those people who never exercise, by showing the benefits to them. For example, people who are overweight who could not lose weight on a diet, may well consider walking to control the health risks of obesity. They also hope that those people who ambled, will not walk briskly. Looking for a book to help motivate a friend? try “The 30 Minute Fitness Solution, A Four-Step plan for Women of All Age” by Dr. JoAnn E. Manson a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Do we have you motivated? Are you going to be a good selfish person; that is, are you going to do something good for yourself no matter what? Let’s look at walking.
What are the guidelines for walking correctly? You thought you mastered this before you could hold a fork correctly, but if you watch people on walking paths, you know that a little review can be helpful.
- Stand up straight. How many times have you seen people walking or running all hunched over? As you stand straight, look straight ahead. Imagine that you have a string attached to the top of your head and it is lifting you from the ground. Keep your shoulders down and back. Up and forward may mean tension, and exercise is not to make you more tense. Lift that chest of yours and keep the tailbone pointed down, not tucked under or back-this is not a runway, nor is it a place to relax. Before you begin and every so often while you are walking, relax your stress points. Relax your shoulders and shake out any tension in your arms and hands. Wiggle your fingers it they bother you, and swing your arms to get even more aerobic benefits from your walk.
- Keep your steps short and fast. The faster you move the better your cardiovascular workout.
- Use a heel to toe motion. That means that your heel should hit the ground first and then you roll through the foot pushing off with your toes. This will tend to minimize shin splints and tendon pulls.
- Stretch before and after you walk. As we have shared before, stretching keeps you flexible so you will be energized by your walk rather than feeling tight and tired. Remember to hold your stretch for 30 seconds. To find out which stretches are best for you, reread some of our past Exercise articles on the subject. Do take time to do quadriceps and calf stretches as well as chest and shoulder stretches
Buy the correct shoes before you begin a walking program. To avoid blisters, keep your feet dry. Stay away from cotton socks which soak up perspiration and stretch. Wear socks made with fibers that draw moisture away from the skin. Never lace your shoes too tightly as pinching can also cause blisters.
If your arches begin to ache, check your form. Are you landing on your heals and are you pushing off with your toes? This one really works. Make sure your shoes fit your feet and that you are not going to have to break them in. If you have corns or calluses, this is very important. When purchasing shoes, make sure the sole is supportive and flexible. You need a toe box that is big enough with no areas that pinch. You also need a good arch support.
Go for a practice lap around the store to make sure that the shoes really fit, that they don’t rub any place and that you are trying them on with the weight socks you will be wearing.
What’s your new schedule?
- Week 1: Walk for 10 minutes on 3 days. This is your form learning week. Mentally check yourself out, or better yet, walk with a partner and check each other out.
- Week 2: This week walk for 15 minutes on 4 days. Make sure you are stretching before each walk.
- Week 3: Go for 20 minute walks on four days. Don’t stroll–do a brisk walk. If you have a heart monitor aim for your target rate. See past articles about this.
- Week 4: This week go for 25 minutes and go for one more day a week so you’re up to 5.
- Week 5: This week hold at 5 days a week but add another 5 minutes to your walk so you’re up to 30 minutes.
- Week 6: You’re there. Just keep walking those 30 minute brisk walks 5 days a week. You’re on your way to fitness and better health.
Lest you think we offer you advise and don’t take it ourselves, you should know that my friend and I exercise 6 days a week. Three days we warm up on a bike or treadmill and then do a graduated weight program. Lots of sweat, but excellent results. See the body sculpting article or the weights article. Before dinner, we walk if the weather allows. We power walk for 30 minutes and then are less hungry when we sit down to eat.
The other days we power walk for at least an hour. We are down to about 10 minutes a mile from 15 minutes a mile so we’re doing well. Here are some final tips that we have learned and want to pass along to you.
- Drink water before you begin your walk, carry water if you’re on a long walk, and make sure you drink another glass when you return home.
- Don’t walk with ankle weights as you can cause muscle strain or injury. Instead of weights, concentrate on your form: straight back, stomach in, relaxed shoulders, and smiling-you’re exercising.
- Listen to music to make the time pass. When my friend is at her lake house, I listen to mysteries when I walk. BUT, don’t listen to taped anything when you’re in a place you should be paying attention to. Where I live, I never go down to the river very early on weekends as there are many homeless people camping out and hung over teens from the night before. By 8:00 they seem to disappear and exercisers are everywhere. Walking alone with a Walkman does not seem prudent especially with something which would muffle sounds or which someone else might want. That doesn’t mean I don’t walk, I just move to a small lake near by which is surrounded by lovely homes if I want to walk very early. A few times around and I’ve gone a mile.
- Make sure if you hurt someplace that you stop and figure out why. If the pain is minor, a good stretch can help, so you can get back to your exercise. If the pain persists, stop and go home. If it still hurts after a short rest, call your doctor. Exercise is to help your health, not make you worse.
Walking is the every person exercise. All you need is socks, shoes, comfortable clothes and the will to make yourself feel better. Now that you know what you think about exercise, make sure that you use your resolve to help yourself. Clear exercise with your doctor first. Go to the store to purchase those new duds and go for it. The great outdoors is calling. Answer with a new routine.