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Step it up!

Walking is one of the simplest ways to boost your energy level while warding off a host of chronic illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. With every step, you’re helping to lower your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels and raise your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. Walking can also help manage blood pressure, stress and weight. If you’ve been sedentary for a long time or have a health condition, talk with your healthcare provider before starting a walking program. Once you have his or her blessing, take a crack at these sensible walking tips:

  • Wear good walking shoes. Your walking shoes should have a low heel and plenty of cushioning and bend easily in the forefoot. Allow for at least half an inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • Set realistic goals. If you aren’t used to exercise, start with short daily walks of three to five minutes and gradually build up to 30 minutes.
  • Warm up and gently stretch before you begin. Walk slowly or march in place for five minutes to warm up your muscles. Step up the pace gradually until you feel warm.
  • Aim for good technique. When walking, keep your chin up, shoulders back, tummy muscles tucked in so your back doesn’t arch and arms flexed to 90 degrees at the elbow. As your feet push off from the ground, imagine that you’re showing the sole of your shoe to someone behind you.
  • Increase the intensity. Slowly build up the intensity of your workout by increasing the number of steps you take instead of trying to lengthen your stride. Swinging your arms faster will also increase your speed.
  • Listen to music. Lively walking music will help you maintain a brisk pace. And either music or audio books will reduce any boredom you may feel.
  • Chart your progress. A pedometer can help you track your physical activity and set goals.

Enjoy your walk! Fitness walking may be just what you need to bring a breath of fresh air into your life.