How do you get fitter, healthier and stronger on a budget? Take a walk. You won’t believe how good even a regular stroll around the block can be for you.

Walking gets you places. It’s one of the essential exercises human bodies are built for. And the more we sit, the more we need to make time for walking.

Here are some of the amazing things a regular walk can do. About 30 minutes a day, five days per week, can reduce your risk of heart disease by about 19 percent. It can also prevent or manage conditions such as high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes.

A study found people who walked 20 minutes a day, at least five days per week had 43 percent less sick days. When they did get sick, they had milder symptoms and recovered faster.

Walking can help burn calories even if your genes are to blame for weight gain. Researchers at Harvard University found that a brisk, one-hour walk every day halved the effects of those genes. According to another study, even a short stroll can reduce cravings for sweet stuff.

The American Cancer Society found that women who walked seven or more hours a week reduced their risk of breast cancer. Walking also provided this protection for women with risk factors such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.

Because it strengthens bones and muscles while protecting joints, walking can reduce arthritis pain. It can also help reduce anxiety and depression.

Walking can clear your head and boost creativity. Try walking with a colleague at work when you have to discuss something big.

Pick your route carefully. Look for smooth surfaces and areas that aren’t crowded – you don’t want to dodge potholes, overhanging branches, skateboards or impatient joggers along the way. If it’s pouring with rain or fiercely hot, try walking in a shopping centre if it’s not too busy.

Wear shoes with good support for your heel and arch, thick soles – and bendy toes to help prevent blisters. The older you are, the more important to warm up by going slowly for the first five to ten minutes. Do the same at the end to cool down and then try some gentle stretches.

Do it right so you don’t hurt yourself. Don’t lean forward or hunch, because it makes breathing harder and can cause a sore back. Look ahead, not down since it puts stress on your upper back and neck.

Swing your arms naturally, keeping your hands relaxed, Making a fist can cause tension in the neck and shoulders. Try to keep your back straight and tighten your tummy muscles slightly. Don’t breathe through your mouth. Inhale slowly through your nose and try to feel the air filling your lungs all the way down. Feel your belly flatten as you exhale.

Your feet should be doing the gait cycle. That means you push off with your toes and land on your heels. Heel to toe is better than a flat-footed walk. Don’t try to take giant strides – there’s such a thing as over-striding and it slows you down. And don’t try to match someone else. Height, weight and build play a part in how long your strides are, so stick to what you find comfortable.

As much as you can manage. Start slowly, especially if you haven’t been exercising much. You could start with five minutes and add five minutes every week until you get to at least 30 minutes per walk, on most days or every day.

Try to make walking a routine – walk at the same time each day, for instance. Keep it interesting by trying different routes. Drive to a park or beach and walk there for a change. If it’s no fun walking alone, go with the family, friends or your dog or join a walking club.


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