Walking as exercise


Man walking his dog

Research supports the idea that walking 10,000 steps a day contributes to reducing the risk of cancer and chronic diseases.

Walking is effective exercise if done mindfully; as you start out, pay attention to your posture and stride.

  • Stand tall and straight; leaning forward or backward could strain your back.
  • Keep your abdominals tight, and tuck in your buttocks.
  • Try not to look at the ground as you walk; look straight ahead to reduce strain on your back and neck.
  • Relax your shoulders: take a deep breath, shrug your shoulders and let them drop.
  • Walk with hands open and slightly curled—clenched hands can raise your blood pressure.
  • Do not allow your hands to swing higher than your breastbone.

Start with a warm-up: walk at a slow, easy pace for at least five minutes, and stretch before you pick up your pace or add any inclines.

Tips for good walking technique

Use the heel-toe method: start on your heel, roll evenly through the step and push off with your toes. Avoid overstriding. Rather than taking longer steps, which can be inefficient and potentially harmful, take more, smaller steps to increase speed.

At the end of your exercise, walk at a slow easy pace for five to 10 minutes, to allow your heart rate to gradually return to normal. Finish by repeating the stretches you did during your warm-up to avoid fatigue and muscle tightness later on.

What type of gear do you need?

  • Flexible walking shoes to help you roll through your steps properly.
  • Light, loose-fitting clothing that allows you to move easily. In colder weather, wear breathable layers you can easily add or remove as needed.
  • Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.

Stay hydrated

Your body needs water to maintain normal temperature and keep your muscles cool. Make sure to drink water before, during and after your walk. Feeling thirsty when you engage in exercise is a sign of dehydration.

Walking injuries

Walking is one of the least likely exercises to cause injury. By pacing yourself, easing in to your new exercise regimen, wearing appropriate shoes and being conscious of proper technique, you can avoid injuries. If you develop an injury, consult your physician for treatment options.

Walk safely

  • Wear light-colored clothing or reflective materials when walking at night.
  • If you must walk in the street, walk towards oncoming traffic.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Carry identification in case of an emergency.

Remember to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Learn about Dana-Farber's exercise classes and consults for cancer patients and survivors.


 
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