For the first few weeks, do not push too hard. Your breathing should be elevated, but you should not be gasping for air. Use the Talk Test to know if you're walking at the right intensity level: If you cannot answer a question, you are walking too fast. If you can have a full conversation, you are walking too slowly.
Walking shouldn't hurt. If you experience any kind of muscle, joint, chest or head pain, see your family physician right away.
Wear a watch so you can monitor the time spent walking. Set small goals to gradually increase the amount of time you walk each week. You can also wear a pedometer to keep track of distance and steps, which can be a big motivator to keep going! For more information about choosing and using a pedometer, click here.
Outdoor Walking Safety Tips
Walking outside is a great way to enjoy the fresh air and get a workout at the same time! Before you lace up those sneakers, here are some important safety tips you’ll want to consider if you head outdoors to walk.
Find a buddy. Walking with someone can be a great motivator and make the time more enjoyable. But more importantly, there is always safety in numbers. If you walk alone, make sure you tell someone your route and the time you expect to return.
Dress to be seen. If you will be outside early morning or later evening, wear light colored clothing or reflectors. A lot of workout attire has reflective materials built in, such pants or jackets with reflective strips, walking shoes with reflective material on the heel, or reflective belts (available at most sporting goods stores). All of these will help you be more visible to oncoming traffic. Also try to walk on well-lit streets as much as possible.
Walk facing the traffic. Especially if there are no sidewalks or pathways on your route, the rules of the road say you should walk against the traffic. This way, you can see the traffic coming and be aware of any potential danger coming toward you.
Vary your route. This is for safety as well as enjoyment. It is much more interesting to experience different surroundings from time to time. This also prevents anyone else from memorizing your whereabouts or routine.
Beware of drivers. Do not assume that drivers know when pedestrians have the right of way. Walk with awareness and caution, assuming that no drivers see you. Be especially cautious of driveways—most drivers are watching for oncoming cars, not walkers.
Be aware of your surroundings. Watch for ice, water, bike riders, cracks in the pavement, or any other hazards in your path. It can be very easy to trip and fall without warning, which can be especially dangerous if you are alone.
In addition to these safety tips, there are a few things that every walker should bring for their outdoor walk, as well as a few things that you can leave at home.
What to Bring It is a good idea to carry pepper spray and cell phone (or alarm) in case you get into trouble. It can also be helpful to carry a walking stick (in case you need to fend off an unleashed dog) or umbrella (in case of sudden rain). If you have a dog, bring it along for companionship and safety! Always have your I.D. with you in the event that you become injured or disabled.
What NOT to Bring Do not wear any jewelry that might draw someone’s attention. Do not wear headphones—they can prevent you from hearing oncoming traffic or someone coming up behind you. You should always be aware of what is happening in your environment.
By following these easy tips, you’ll make your walking experience as safe and enjoyable as possible!
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is a certified personal trainer, certified health coach and advanced health & fitness specialist. See all of Jen's articles.
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