Walking Tips - Safety, Stretching & Fun Facts

Walk Smart - Walk Safe

Be Ready and Be Safe
If you are just starting out with physical exercise or have a medical condition that may impact your participation in walking for exercise contact your physician to confirm this is the activity for you. Start slowly there’s no point in walking a thousand miles on your first time out. Make sure to stretch before each outing.

Walk Facing Traffic
If there is no sidewalk and you must walk on the side of the road, choose the side where you are facing oncoming traffic. This gives you the best chance to see traffic that may be approaching you.

Cross Safely
Mom was right: look both ways before crossing any street. At controlled intersections, it is wise to cross only when you have the pedestrian crossing light, but even then, drivers and bikers may have a green light to turn and won't be expecting you to be in the crosswalk. Make eye contact with any drivers who may be turning. Give them a wave. Make sure they see you.

Walk Single File
Unless you are on a sidewalk separated from the road or a wide bike lane, you should walk in single file. This is especially important on a road with lots of curves, where traffic has only a split second chance of seeing you. While it can be enjoyable to walk down the road two to three abreast chatting merrily, drivers may not expect it.

Stay Aware of Bikes and Runners
Share the road and path with bikes and runners. Bike riders should alert you when approaching from behind with a bike bell or a "passing on the left/right." Listen for them, and move to walk single file, allowing them to pass safely. Runners should also call out for passing. Bike-pedestrian collisions can result in serious injuries for either — and you aren't wearing a helmet.

Be Visible
Wear bright colors when walking during the daytime. When walking at night, wear light-colored clothing and reflective clothing or a reflective vest to be visible. Drivers are often not expecting walkers to be out after dark, and you need to give them every chance to see you, even at street crossings that have crossing signals. Be just as cautious at dawn or twilight, as drivers still have limited visibility or may even have the setting or rising sun directly in their eyes.

Be Predictable
Make a practice of staying on one side of the path while walking rather than weaving randomly from side to side. Watch your arm motions, or you may end up giving a black eye to a silently passing walker, runner or biker.

Keep the Volume Down
Don't drown out your environment with your iPod. Keep the volume at a level where you can still hear bike bells and warnings from other walkers and runners.

Hang Up and Walk
Chatting on a cell phone while you walk is as dangerous as chatting while driving. You are distracted and not as aware of your environment. You are less likely to recognize traffic danger, passing joggers, bikers or tripping hazards.

Have Fun
Enjoy your walk! Go with a friend, listen to the birds in the trees or sing while you walk! If you are having fun, it won’t seem like exercise.

Walking Facts

Nordic/ Urban Walking
Nordic or Urban Walking is a quickly growing activity. Nordic walking offers all the benefits of walking but with the addition of an upper body workout. The poles used are specialty designed to transmit vibration forces experienced while walking. They offer increased support for those with balance issues and provide for improved postural control. Nordic walking offers a great workout for women during and after pregnancy, individuals with osteoporosis, arthritis or for individuals who enjoy walking and are simply looking for a better workout. Make sure to research more online.

Walking For Exercise: Fun and Effective!
Wondering whether walking for exercise is an effective form of physical activity? The answer is YES! It is considered by many to be a near-perfect exercise. There are many reasons why it is so good for you: Emotional and physical benefits, such as improved moods, toned muscles, reduced risk of memory loss and some cancers. It’s a great way to burn calories. In fact, you can burn over 200 calories an hour. There is virtually no risk of injury and walking is easier on your muscles, joints, back and knees than more intense activities like jogging. Walking for exercise is equivalent to walking to improve your fitness and health.

To determine if you are physically ready to begin any fitness routine you can take the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (Par-Q). If you are between the ages of 15 and 69, the PAR-Q will tell you if you should check with your doctor before you start walking. Most people should aim to walk 10,000 steps a day. That's equivalent to walking five miles per day. Those who are already very active should try to walk even more than 10,000 steps per day.

Is All Walking Considered Exercise?
In order to maintain your current weight, lose weight and strengthen your cardiovascular system, you should keep a brisk pace. This is a pace that is quick enough to elevate your heart rate to 60% to 80% of its maximum. This is known as your target heart rate zone. Keeping your heart rate within your target heart rate zone will strengthen your heart and lungs, making them more efficient and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Here are some easy tips to calculate target heart rate.

There are techniques that will rev up your walking workout and maximize your calorie burning potential. Consider interval walking, walking on the beach, and walking backwards to really shed the fat and calories fast while improving your fitness level. If you'd like to walk and meet new friends, consider mall walking. It's a great way to exercise in a safe place, especially when there is a blizzard or heat wave outside! If you're short on time and need to add more steps to your day, consider walking in place.

Need Motivation?
Solo walking can be peaceful and therapeutic. You’ll find the quiet time allows you to collect your thoughts and organize your mind. There are other times, however, when you need some motivation to get out the door. The beauty of walking is that your spouse, kids or dog can keep you motivated by joining you on your walks. You can also join a walking group. Many neighborhoods have one or start your own! You can even start a lunchtime walking group with your coworkers.

When you are ready to incorporate strength training into your routine to build lean muscle mass, which will increase your metabolism, try these walking exercises. They are quick and easy and can fit into any exercise routine. Walking for exercise is an effective way to improve your physical fitness, lose weight and just feel great in body and mind. Because it is free, easy to do and has little risk for injury, it truly is a near-perfect exercise.

Just remember, it’s like a child trying food for the first time “you can’t say you don’t like it if you don’t try it at least once”!

Stretching Tips

Stretch Before You Walk
A significant amount of injuries occur due to the fact that your muscles are “not ready” to be used. Like a car in winter you have to let it “warm-up” before you take it out on the road. The following are examples of stretches you may want to consider before heading out for a walk. You will discover other stretches that will better suit yourself and your routine. Please refer to the next pages for examples of various stretches you can start with.

Hamstring Stretch
Sit tall with both legs fully outstretched. Flex your right knee so that the right foot rests comfortably along your left inner thigh, with the right knee as close as possible to the floor. Keeping your spine long and your shoulders down away from your ears, lunge forwards from the hips to reach forward to your left foot. Go as far forwards as possible, then relax your spine to reach even further forwards, holding this stretch position. You will feel the stretch along the back of the outstretched leg, and along the inside and rear of the flexed leg. Repeat with the other leg, breathing easily throughout.

Quadricep Stretch
Standing next to something for balance, raise the leg you wish to stretch behind you and grab hold of your foot. The upper part of the leg should remain in a vertical position as you pull your foot upwards.  A slight variation in this stretch is to pull your foot back slightly; this will help stretch other areas of the quadriceps. Be careful not to pull your leg to the side. It may put an unneeded stress on your knee.

Overhead Reach
Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Reach up with one arm and then reach over your head and to the opposite side. Keep your hips steady and your shoulders straight. Relax and repeat with the other side.  While standing on one leg lift the other foot off the floor. Gently point your toe and rotate your ankle. Do about ten circles in each direction. This exercise can be performed while standing, sitting, or lying on your back with leg raised.

Calf Stretch
Place both hands at shoulder height on a wall or pole in front of your body. Keep your arms fairly straight and your lead leg bent under your body. Now, place the heel of your rear leg 1½ to 2 feet behind your body. Keeping your rear leg fairly straight but not locked in position; place the heel of this foot on the ground.  You should feel a stretch down the outer part of your rear-leg calf muscle. If you don’t, try moving your rear foot back a little farther (remember to place your heel back on the ground after you move your foot back). Throughout the stretch, your upper body should remain vertical and straight; do not bend forward. Alternate legs.