Last week, we unveiled our 2015 Walking Around HHHunt Challenge! This newest wellness program has already been popular with our team members and many are racking up the extra steps. We’re not sure if anyone is going to reach the 5,366,800 steps it takes to visit all 43 HHHunt locations, but every additional step is a move in the direction of healthier living. A regular walking program can improve your cholesterol profile, lower blood pressure, increase energy and stamina, boost bone strength, prevent weight gain, and help maintain a healthy weight. Those goals are something we can all support! After all, at HHHunt, we believe it’s how you live that matters and healthy and active living plays a big role.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important and it also means taking the necessary precautions. As you participate in this or any other Walking Challenge, keep an eye on safety. In terms of technique, begin with short distances that feel comfortable at first and gradually increase your time or distance each week by 10-20%. If it is easier or more convenient for you and your schedule to take a couple of shorter walks throughout the day rather than one long walk per day that’s okay. While walking, be sure to focus on your posture. Ideally, you should keep your head lifted, tummy pulled-in, and shoulders relaxed. Keep your arm swing natural and relaxed and avoid carrying hand weights as they put excess stress on the elbows and shoulders. Be careful not to over- stride but, rather, maintain a comfortable, natural step length and simply pull your back leg through more quickly if you want to move faster. Speed isn’t important at first – establishing your walking habit and program participation is more valuable. If you can’t talk or catch your breath while walking then slow down and make sure you are able to take deep, comfortable breaths.
If you’re looking to add some intensity to your walking program, that’s great but take it slow. Warming-up is the most important and first step. For a walking program, begin by walking at an easy tempo for the first several minutes and then gradually increase your speed to adopt a more purposeful pace while concentrating on proper posture and breathing. Try to incorporate some hills and varied terrain into your walking path as a great way to tone your legs and increase strength. Listening to lively music while walking will help you energize your workout and encourage maintenance of an upbeat walking tempo. Stretching is also a very important part to any exercise program. For a walking program, the ideal time to stretch is at the end of your walk since your body and muscle are already warmed-up. Focus stretching on your hamstrings, calves, chest, shoulders, and back.
Finally, don’t forget these important safety tips:
- Keep the volume down if you are listening to lively music while walking to where you are also able to hear the sounds of traffic and other activity around you.
- Always be wary of and watch-out for traffic/ Just because pedestrians have the right-of-way by law doesn’t mean all motorists abide by it.
- Wear light colors and/or reflective clothing and carry a flashlight or glow stick while walking when visibility is low.
- Stick to roads with sidewalks. If you are unable to, at least choose streets with lower speed limits so motorists have ample time to stop or slow down quicker when they see you.
- Know the area where you will be walking by knowing which businesses will be open and where emergency phones or resources are located. Pick an area that is well-traveled and avoid taking shortcuts through alleys or across parking lots. Keep calm, be self-assured, and maintain your purposeful walking pace to lower your chances of becoming a victim of crime.
- When possible, find a walking partner. This may discourage crime and help alert you to other potential dangers.
- If you have foot, knee, hip, or back pain prior to beginning a walking program, check with your doctor first to make sure it is safe for you.
- If you experience foot, knee, hip, or back pain while walking, STOP and check with your doctor.
Of course, what’s most important is that you have fun and enjoy participating in the Walking Challenge! We can’t wait to see more walkers in our offices and communities!