According to Amy Goldwater, M.S., educator, former body building champion, and physical fitness expert for TOPS, scientific studies indicate that the more active people are, the greater their life expectancy. "Scientists believe that a healthy, active lifestyle allows people to live a vibrant life - a physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially active, and functionally independent existence. These are the rewards of a wellness way of life," she says.For those who are looking for a way to begin on the path to good health, TOPS suggests starting with a walking program. Walking is a slow and easy way to ease the body into a higher level of fitness. It is accessible to most everyone, doesn't require any special equipment or practice, and offers a long list of health benefits, including:
· Lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ("good" cholesterol)
· Lowering blood pressure
· Reducing the risk of, or managing, type 2 diabetes
· Preventing osteoporosis
· Managing weight
· Improving mood
Even though walking is a low impact activity and sustaining a serious injury is unlikely, it is important to prepare for this exercise to prevent things like blisters or muscle pain. For this reason, one should wear comfortable footwear with arch support, a firm heel, and thick but flexible soles. Wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothes in layers and dress for the weather and the time of day you are walking. Good posture is important. It is also important to begin slowly, to warm up the muscles, and to stretch your muscles before and after your walk.Here are a few other things to remember when taking the first steps toward fitness:
· It's okay to start slowly, especially if a fitness routine is new. Set defined goals of time and distance and stick to them. Then slowly increase the time and distance to 30 to 60 minutes several times a week.
· Measure the intensity of the workout by monitoring heart rate. This can be done manually by checking the pulse in the wrist or neck or with an electronic device. Knowing the intensity of the workout will help to maximize its effect on the body.
· Set realistic goals that are attainable. Again, starting slowly may be best for those just beginning a fitness routine.
· Keep track of the number of steps taken or the distance walked as a source of motivation. Consider a walking journal or automated pedometer to keep this record.
· Bring a friend along if you don't like to walk alone.
· Take different routes to avoid monotony.