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Dietitians Dish: Walking for health

By By Christie Mayer, MS, RD, LD
Oct. 15, 2013 at 5:15 a.m.

Christie Mayer

Walking may be one of the simplest exercises for overall health. Walking can be done indoors or outdoors, slow or fast. It is recommended to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.

Walking may help reduce incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes and many other health conditions. It may also aid in stress relief, weight control and increase energy levels.

Whether you live in the country or a city, there are plenty of locations for you to get active. You can walk the trails, in your neighborhood, at the local mall or on a treadmill. Having a walking partner also helps because you are accountable to each other, and it makes it more fun.

You can make daily errands more active - rather than taking the elevator, you can take the stairs. When at the grocery store, you can park farther out and walk the distance. Always keep in mind that you are doing something good for your body.

All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes to get started. Some types to consider:•  Walking shoes have low treads and solid construction to grip flat surfaces.

Running shoes provide more cushion on the ball and heel area to protect the body from impact.

Fitness shoes are designed to rock or be slightly unstable. The theory is that the leg and buttock muscles will compensate and become more toned.

Trail shoes look like athletic shoes but have rugged treads to grip and stabilize the walker on trails or hikes.

Barefoot shoes are the newest technology and offer little to no cushion or support but help build strength and flexibility in the feet.

You will want to make sure you warm up the body and stretch before every walk (usually five minutes). Then, walk 30 minutes or more at least three times per week.

If 30 minutes is too challenging, start with a lesser amount of time and work up to it. Cool down the last five minutes of each walk by slowing the pace. This allows your body to come back to a relaxed state.

It's essential to be hydrated while walking. Carry a water bottle with you or get a hands-free water bottle that either hooks onto a backpack or athletic utility belt. You may also want to wear warm-weather-appropriate clothes such as short-sleeved shirts and shorts or lightweight pants.

Walking is an easy and inexpensive way to improve overall health. It may help curb health problems and become a social activity for you and your loved ones.

So, put your best foot forward and enjoy the health benefits exercise can provide. But as always, don't start a strenuous exercise activity without consulting your physician first.

Christie Mayer is a licensed renal dietitian with DaVita Dialysis Center of Victoria.

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