Fitness Tips

Walking and Running Tips

Most people can enjoy becoming physically fit by walking or running. Both are excellent ways to get in shape for just about any outdoor activity. Hikers, backpackers, fly fishers and skiers especially recommend these two conditioning activities.

Whichever one you do, the benefits include being outdoors in the fresh air and enjoying the scenery around you. You can walk or run almost anywhere and altering your routes offers plenty of variety. You can go out in almost any weather at any time, including your lunch hour. And the cost of outfitting yourself is minimal.

Which Is Best?

If you've been inactive, are overweight, smoke or have recently quit, we recommend that you begin with a walking program. A brisk walk while swinging your arms should get your heart into its target heart rate (THR) zone. Walking is also preferable for people with certain foot, leg or back problems and for people with health problems such as asthma or heart disease. Check with your doctor if you have questions about which activity is suitable for you.

If you prefer running, check your pulse to make sure it stays at your target heart rate zone. If it doesn't, start with a walking program instead. If you've been active, a slow run or jog should get you into your target zone. Some people do a walk/run program where they walk and jog in the same session. Begin slowly and stay at the lower end of your range until you feel comfortable enough to progress. Remember to check your heart rate and listen to your body. When running or walking, you should be able to talk comfortably with your running partner. When conversation becomes labored, it's time to slow down. If you don't like running, but you want more of a challenge from your walking, try adding more hills, trail walking on the local town trails or hiking your favorite mountain trails.

Warm Up, Cool Down

Whether you choose walking, and especially if you run, each session should begin with a warm-up period and finish with a cool-down as a precaution against injury and muscle soreness. Warm-up for 10 to 15 minutes and include stretching and a combination of light-to-moderate muscular strength and endurance exercises.

Cooling down is just as important. It allows your body to return to its pre-exercise level of activity, helps to minimize soreness which may be felt the next day and prevents the blood from pooling in the legs, which can cause dizziness and nausea. To cool down, walk, jog, swim, cycle or do some rhythmical exercise at a very low intensity for about five minutes, then stretch for five minutes and relax a few more minutes. Check your heart rate. If it's still very high, you need to cool down longer. As your fitness level improves, your body will cool down faster. You may even have a lower heart rate after exercise than before, due to a relaxation effect. If you work out too hard, or are generally tired or stressed, you may have to cool down longer. Also, check your heart rate before going in for a shower. Taking a cool shower before being properly cooled-down can cause dizziness and even fainting.

Choosing Shoes

A good pair of shoes is essential for fitness walking and running. While some walkers prefer running shoes, today's walking shoes are built with many of the same performance features. Please see Choosing an Athletic Shoe for more information.

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