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Walk This Way - Trends For Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Walk This Way - Trends For Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Walking is an activity that’s available to the majority of people and one of the easiest, cheapest and most enjoyable ways of keeping fit. The UK has an extensive network of footpaths, enabling us to explore our varied and beautiful countryside, as well as a plethora of city parks and wild areas, where we are able to roam completely free of charge. Furthermore, walking to work or to the shops, rather than taking the car, is an effective way of reducing our carbon footprint, as well as helping our waistlines.

Walking doesn’t require much specialist equipment – usually just comfortable layers of clothing to suit the weather and a pair of appropriate shoes or boots, according to the terrain you are covering. Understandably, the popularity of walking as a leisure activity has resulted in several styles and techniques, designed to maximise its effectiveness. You may like to investigate some of the latest walking trends, if you want to take your fitness regime up to the next level.

Nordic Walking

Originating in 1930s Finland, Nordic walking employs specially designed walking poles, which work a bit like cross-country skiing poles to improve balance and stability, to help you maintain correct posture and to give you a great upper and lower body workout. Pressure down through the poles with each stride helps to propel the body forward, and the forearms are held parallel to the ground, forcing you to employ your back muscles, thereby strengthening your core. The arm movements involved in Nordic walking increase the calories burned by as much as 46%, compared with regular walking, and improve cardiovascular fitness. It can be enjoyed both as an aid to fitness or as a competitive sport for real enthusiasts.

nordic-walking-with-poles

Power Walking

Power walking is done at a brisk pace (between 4 and 5 mph), so that both feet are momentarily off the ground at the same time. It is an excellent form of aerobic exercise and is low-impact, so that it protects your joints, when compared with running. Especially affective in an urban environment, it has many health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of type two diabetes and heart disease. You need to stand tall and take natural strides, rolling from your heel to your toe and propel yourself forward as you lift from your toes. Rotate your hips in a slight wiggling action and swing your arms as you stride with elbows bent. You’ll need some flexible, lightweight running shoes with a decent amount of cushioning. You can get more information on the basic principles of power walking in this YouTube video youtube.com/watch?v=erK4_3OuUlY

Hill Walking

Walking up and down steep inclines works the buttocks and calves, so hill walking is a great workout, although you may need to zigzag, particularly when coming downhill, to avoid excess pressure on your knee joints. You need a reasonable level of fitness and good navigational skills when undertaking hill walking, so it's advisable to join a hill waking group and essential to take a smart phone, maps, a compass and suitable waterproofs with you and to wear stout, comfortable boots. Careful advance planning is advisable and you should always tell someone about the route you’re taking. You might like to consider a guided hill-walking holiday, where different routes cater for walkers of varying abilities, if you want to try this activity. There’s also lots of information on the British Mountaineering Council’s website https://www.thebmc.co.uk/five-steps-to-starting-hill-walking

hill-walking

Mindful Walking

Walking in the countryside can be very therapeutic, helping to put worries into perspective and to see that life is good and that we need to make the best of the short time available to us. Even more effective in relieving stress is mindful walking, where you focus on the here and now and concentrate on becoming aware of your feet and the act of walking and your breathing, as a form of meditation. Rather than letting your mind wander and go into autopilot, mindful walking involves paying attention to your surroundings and the sensations, sights, colours and sounds they evoke. It brings you closer to nature and your body, helps strengthen your concentration, makes you more aware, clears your mind of clutter and connects you to the present moment.

Barefoot Walking

We weren’t born with shoes on our feet and walking barefoot protects your joints, strengthens the foot arch, restores your natural walking pattern and improves your balance and posture. So walking about the house, on your lawn or on a sandy beach without footwear is very beneficial, as are activities you normally perform in bare feet, such as yoga, Pilates and martial arts. However, rough or wet surfaces, cold temperatures and sharp objects present a hazard when walking barefoot out of doors, so you might like to consider buying some “barefoot shoes” – a bit like rubber gloves for the feet. These provide some protection from rough terrain but are thin and light and still give you the sensation of walking barefoot, while strengthening your feet, which grow weak over time due to the excessive cushioning and cramped toe boxes found in normal shoes.

So, whether you embark on a mindful amble, a fast-paced ramble or a hill-top scramble, why not take advantage of warmer weather and longer days, put your best foot forward and try some of these walking trends to put a new spring in your step?

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