When deciding where to go walking, be sure to walk in places where you feel safe.
When and Where
Once you've found others interested in walking, establish specific times when you can get together. My group makes an effort to exercise about four times a week, though everyone can't always be there every time. But that's okay--it keeps our time together interesting. The changing group dynamic offers a chance to get to know different people a bit better.
When deciding where to go, be sure to walk in places where you feel safe--especially if you're out at night. Avoid wooded walking trails after sundown, and opt for a lit track or neighborhood. Spice up your routine by alternating where you walk and even the route you take. One week you might hit the walking trail, and the next trek around the mall.
Whether I meet my friends early in the morning before my busy day begins or after work when I'm craving a much-needed energy boost, I look forward to the time I spend with this group every week. They truly keep me motivated.
- Your heart will thank you for the exercise. Walking for 30 minutes, five times a week, can help reduce heart-risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Flabby muscles will be a thing of the past. Walking is a wonderful way to burn calories and increase your metabolism, not to mention tone up any fatty spots that may be hanging around.
- Exercise in and of itself is a proven stress reducer, and when you also have a couple of people to talk to, life's problems may not seem as overwhelming.
- People need people. Walking with a group offers a great chance to get to know interesting folks. Plus it allows you to socialize while getting fit.
The Trusty Shoe
When it comes to walking, the right shoe can make or break you. Feb Boswell, manager and footwear buyer for Fleet Feet Sports in Memphis, says if you're walking consistently, you need to buy a new pair of shoes about every six months. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you start shopping.
- Fit is of utmost importance. "A lot of people buy shoes that are too small," says Feb. "You should pick ones that are a half size to a full size longer than you normally wear. Feet tend to swell during physical activity, and your foot will slide forward when you get fatigued. The heel should fit nicely, but you should have at least a thumb-width of room at the end of the shoe."
- Walk around the store for several minutes and on different surfaces. You shouldn't have to break in walking shoes; they should fit comfortably right out of the box.
- Examine each pair closely, checking the inside of the shoes for seams, bumps, and rough patches that could hurt your feet.
- Shop at places, such as athletic-shoe stores, where knowledgeable employees can help you find the proper shoes for your needs.
This article is from the January 2005 issue of Southern Living.