Week of June 8, 2009
Contact: Mya R. Nelson, (202) 328-7744
Ready to Walk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
It’s the time of year when many Americans try to get out for walks more often. Here are a few tips to start walking in a way that helps you reach your goals without getting injured or losing motivation.
The Gear: Forget the hand weights. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), they put excessive stress on the elbows and shoulders. But walkers should invest in appropriate shoes. Mark Fenton, host of the PBS series, “America’s Walking” and national consultant on walking programs, offers these hallmarks of a good walking shoe: Hold the shoe by the heel and push up at the toe; it should flex at the ball of the foot. Avoid shoes that bend through the arch, as this can lead to painful inflammation of the heel and bottom of the foot. Look for a heel that is rounded or beveled to allow a rolling motion from heel to toe.
Track Progress: If you’re aiming for improved fitness, research shows you’ll likely do better by keeping some sort of log. You can track time, distance or steps (using a pedometer). The goal of 30 minutes of moderate activity daily for overall health means walking about 3000 steps or one-and-a-half to two miles in 30 minutes, whether you do it all at once or in two or three smaller blocks of time.
Start by recording your current walking for three to seven days. Fenton suggests creating a new goal each week by adding 20 percent to the previous week’s average step count. The same idea works if you track distance or time. If you’re starting with 10 minutes a day, the next week’s goal would be 12 minutes a day, the following week’s 14, and so on. Older adults may be better off taking two weeks before moving to a new goal. You don’t have to hit the specific target each day; some days may be a little more and some a little less; keeping a log lets you track your average.
Avoid aches and injuries: Walking posture is important: Stand tall with shoulders back and head up. To increase your pace, Fenton emphasizes taking quicker, not longer, steps. It’s easier to walk faster if you bend your elbows and push off of your toes as you step.
Start off with a few minutes of slow walking to warm up. An extra two minutes stretching when you’re done pays off in avoiding aches. Experts at ACE especially emphasize stretching the hamstrings and calves; hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, don’t bounce. If you experience aches or pains, talk to your doctor. Federal exercise guidelines say we don’t necessarily need to see a doctor before we start walking. However, consult your health-care provider about appropriate types and amounts of activity if you have a chronic condition (such as diabetes, heart disease or arthritis), are pregnant or have symptoms (such as chest pain or pressure, dizziness or joint pain).
Know your goal: To improve fitness, gradually increase your pace or start including hills. Or try interval training, adding short bursts of a more vigorous pace. If your goal is weight loss, increasing your walking to 30 minutes a day may produce initial weight loss. But at some point, studies suggest that to continue losing you may need to spend 45 to 60 minutes doing moderate activity or increase the intensity by adding more vigorous activity. Along with boosting your activity, you’ll lose weight more readily if you eat fewer calories. Reducing portions or substituting foods to cut 100 to 200 calories daily will make a difference if it’s continued daily.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.All active news articles