Fitness Articles

Walking Safety Tips

Getting Off To a Good Start

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If you are new to exercise, here are some important health and safety tips so you can start your walking program off on the right foot.
  • Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. He or she may require that you have a physical exam or give you special instructions based on your medical history.
     
  • Don't overdo it, especially if you are a beginner. Let your body adjust to the new activity, gradually increasing the duration and frequency of your workouts.
     
  • Wear appropriate shoes. Not every shoe offers the stability and cushioning you need to walk.
     
  • 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!

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Member Comments

  • Very good ideas!
  • great advice thank you.
  • Great advice...........
    ..Thank You.
  • BRIARGAL
  • TOMATOCAFEGAL
    WOW, EXCELLENT TIPS AND GREAT RESPONSE IDEAS TOO.
  • I live in a great community for walking and biking. We are an active 55 and older community and it is also very safe.
  • FAVREM
    Excellent basic tips, thank you!
  • I wear a wrist band that has my last name and ER contact numbers. A simple thing but if I passed out, or tripped and fell at least (hopefully) someone would call one of those numbers.
  • I have a conceal, carry permit, and I ALWAYS carry my nine mm with me in a bra holster.
  • Bring a walking stick or pepper spray? Hmm...how about bring a GUN.
  • RWIGGINS49
    we just moved so we could feel safer walking around the neighborhood, but we are still prepared, cell phone, flashlight, small water bottle. We live in the southwest desert, so love watching the wildlife come alive early evening -- watch for snakes.
  • When I started walking for fitness I got a pedometer so I gradually upped my steps then started working on getting aerobic steps in....pedometer traded those once I walked briskly for 10 minutes.
  • On my daily walks -- there have been several times when stray dogs have come very close to attacking me. It is scary when a vicious dog can be loose. I carry a metal poker rod from a fireplace tool set. If a dog attacks me, I'll have a weapon against it.
    This is very important!---
  • JICAMA19
    I have been walking for a number of years and I live in a pretty safe town in Massachusetts .i walk up to 3-5 miles per week and I am always looking around as I walk., I have had some close calls a few times. I like the idea about carrying a whistle and mace, but when I I went to the police station to renew my mace certificate, they give me a hard way to go. So I walk with my phone. That was almost 20 years ago, maybe I will go back to the police station and try again.
  • When I walk outside I text my husband at the beginning, midpoint, and end of my journey. Sometimes I send pics which is fun, and I let him know what I am wearing. It's also good to find out where registered sex offenders are living in your area so that you can avoid those streets.

About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.