Help your joints by walking

(NewsUSA) - Let's face it. Walking is a popular low-impact exercise. Now, new iPods are equipped with pedometers, half-marathons are packed with walkers and MapMyWalk.com and other apps can map and measure walking routes. But even with all of these new innovations, you'll still want to pay attention to basics.

The national recommendation for regular physical activity to stay healthy is actually rather attainable. Adults are encouraged to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week or more. This means that walking the dog, hiking, biking or walking to the metro instead of hailing a cab all count as exercise.

In fact, the Library of Medicine says walking for fitness was the primary activity reported by people who met the national recommendation for healthy exercise.

Research from the Duke University Medical Center confirms the amount of exercise is more important than the intensity, and walking yields significant aerobic benefits -- especially a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Walking for fitness can help keep joints fluid, but it also may cause some soreness or stiffness in the knees and ankles. Use the following tips to get the most out of walking:

First things first -- ask the doc. Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise routine if you have been largely sedentary or suffer from existing health conditions.

Dress for the occasion. Wear comfortable clothing that's loose-fitting. If it's cool, wear layers. Cushioned socks and shoes that fit well are also important. Remember that tennis shoe sizes may be larger than dress shoe sizes.

Be pre-emptive. If needed, apply lotions and medications to affected joints to help loosen up leg muscles. If you still experience muscle aches, certain recovery aids can help by speeding blood flow to target areas. Tired muscles can recover twice as fast.

Stretch to warm up. Begin by walking leisurely for a few minutes, then stretch key muscles like glutes, calves and quads. Once your muscles are warmed up, gradually increase your speed, and pay attention to your posture.

For hydration, trust your body. Generally speaking, if you plan on walking for over half an hour, bring water with you. But you can also trust your thirst. If you're concerned with over-drinking, consume fluids only when you're thirsty. For marathons, no more than one cup of water per mile is a good rule of thumb.


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