Walking is one of the easiest exercises to incorporate into your daily routine to maintain physical health and improve mobility. Although we do it every day to get from one place to another, walking for an extended period of time should be approached like any exercise. The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) created the acronym S.M.A.R.T. (stretch, move, add it up, reduce strain, talk to a physiotherapist) to help you start.
Warming-up your muscles helps you move easily and reduces the risk for injuries or strains. Stretching should be done before, during and after walking and should include the calves, hamstrings, quads, and hips.
Stretching should never be painful. Do not stretch further after you feel a gentle pull of the muscle.
Walking is not just about putting one foot in front of the other. Control your breathing by consciously inhaling deep through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. You can add more to your workout by using vigorous movement of the arms, with or without bent elbows.
Add it up
Keep track of the amount of walking that you do each day. Setting aside an hour for a good walk is equally as beneficial as doing 20 minute walks 3 times a day. Keep walking, but for shorter distances or at slower speeds, when the weather gets worse so that you can continue your routine for all 12 months of the year.
There are many factors involved in the potential risk for strain, including the gear you use. Wear proper walking shoes that fit your need and type of walking program. Shop around for pouches, backpacks, etc. that help ease the amount of weight you carry.
The CPA also recommends that you do not use wrist or ankle weights while walking which add too much stress on your joints.
Talk to a Physiotherapist
Physiotherapists not only treat an existing injury; they also teach you how to prevent the onset of pain or injury that prevents you from completely your daily routines with ease. See a physiotherapist if you want to begin an exercise routine with the goals of increasing your mobility, relieving pain, building strength, and/or improving balance and cardiovascular health.