Walk Your Way to Health, and Have a Ball Doing It!

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Mark Fenton
America Walks

Most people know that walking is one of the most healthful of exercises. The problem is that walking has the reputation of being boring. Wrong! People who do lots of walking know that it's not just good for you -- it's also fun.

Nordic walking, for instance, is an activity that's been around for many years in Europe and is now growing in popularity in the US.

Nordic walkers use two poles that assist in balance, especially on rough terrain, and provide additional exercise for the upper body. Walking poles usually cost $70 to $140 a pair in sporting-goods stores.

To aim at an even higher fitness level, try power walking or race walking, which require moving at more than four miles per hour.

In both activities, you stand upright, push off with your toes, bend your arms about 90 degrees at the elbow and take quicker, though not shorter, steps.

We normally walk at a pace of about 120 steps per minute. Power walkers take 140 to 160 steps per minute, and race walkers take more than 170 per minute.

But there's a big difference between walking and running. Walkers never take both feet off the ground at the same time, and competitive rules require their legs to be straight when the foot hits the ground.

Information: Contact your local recreation department or the North American Racewalking Foundation (626-795-3243, or visit the Web site

The Payoff

According to The Cooper Institute, a Dallas research institute dedicated to advancing the understanding of the relationship between living habits and health, Nordic walking, power walking and race walking all improve circulation and burn more calories than ordinary walking does.

Everyday walking also has big health benefits, say the Harvard School of Public Health, the US Surgeon General's office and the American Heart Association.

Proof: Researchers have shown that light exercise -- which includes walking -- cuts the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, stroke, several types of cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and depression. It doesn't take much walking to see the benefits -- for the average person, only about 30 minutes more a day than he/she normally walks.

Making It Fun

Unlike many other activities, walking can be a solitary or a group activity. Thousands of walking events held throughout the US are great for meeting and socializing with other walkers.

The American Hiking Society (301-565-6704, and the American Volkssport Association (800-830-9255, keep track of clubs and events, as does City/county recreation departments usually know of local clubs.

Many events are five-kilometer walks (about three miles), which is well within the ability of most amateur walkers.

By joining a walking club, you can easily meet others who take regular walks. Clubs have already mapped out accessible and interesting routes -- through historic areas, along rivers or to other places where you'll enjoy a leisurely visit.

Ask people you know to join you on a daily walk. If you're still working, invite coworkers. Lunchtime strolls can go a long way in reducing workday stress. If you have children or grandchildren who are students, consider walking them to and/or from school.

When you travel, look into walking tours that let you see areas that many tourists never have a chance to visit.

Examples: If you enjoy the French Riviera, you'll get a spectacular view of the Mediterranean by strolling along one of the many walking paths on the coast in Provence. The Italian Riviera and parts of the English countryside also have terrific sites for walkers. Check with your travel agent for overseas walking tours.

In the US, most large cities and many small ones have walking tours that are easy to find through local tourist offices and chambers of commerce.

Set Goals

Even though walking can be fun, overscheduling often makes it hard to maintain any activity on a regular basis. Setting goals is an effective way to keep on track.

As a general rule, it's more effective to set goals for what you intend to do instead of the results you hope to achieve.

Example: Aim to walk 30 minutes each day instead of, say, setting a goal to lose 10 pounds in three months.

Recommended: Set a goal of walking a certain length of time each day or a certain number of miles each week or month.

Helpful: Keep a log of how often or far you walk.

Or reward yourself with a present after maintaining a streak of walking every day for a certain time -- two months, for instance.

Pedometers, which record the number of steps you take, are also good motivators, especially if you're just beginning to walk on a regular basis.

Wear a pedometer for about a week to see how many steps you average per day. Then set a goal to gradually increase them.

Most people over age 50 take 2,000 to 4,000 steps a day, according to The Cooper Institute, which says many walkers start experiencing health benefits after an increase of only 1,000 steps a day -- a half mile or about 10 minutes of walking for someone with an average stride.

A good plan is to increase your average daily steps by no more than 20%. If you now take an average of 3,000 steps a day, for instance, 600 more steps will require five to six minutes of additional walking.

Though an extra 30 minutes of walking is enough for many health benefits, it usually takes 60 to 90 minutes of daily walking to achieve substantial weight loss, if that's your goal.

If you are planning a walking regimen then ActiveForever offers the high quality Acumen JogMate Pedometer at a great price! It is designed to let you to watch your progress as you walk, run or jog, this easy-to-operate and lightweight pedometer records your speed, distance in miles, time, and number of steps taken. Independent walk and run settings let you program both your walking stride and running stride.

If walking is difficult or your mobility prohibits it we've got the perfect solution for you. The Magneciser Pedal Exerciser was specially designed for those that have a hard time riding a regular bike. It can be used from a regular chair and/or wheelchair. Perfect for upper and lower body conditioning, it includes a multi-function LCD display readout for distance, time, calories, and speed. This small, portable, easy-to-use Magneciser Pedal Exerciser can be used as a regular upright bike, a recumbent bike or on a table for upper body conditioning.

This article was provided by Bottom Line's Daily Health News. Bottom Line's vast network of leading mainstream, alternative, and complementary practitioners brings you the information you need to make informed decisions about your health.

Reprinted with permission of:

Bottom Line's Daily Health News
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281 Tresser Blvd.
Stamford, CT 06901

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