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Dr Mark Nelson

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Walking Information and Tips

Information From The American Podiatric Medical Association

 

Walking: Rx for Health, Happiness

For a healthier, happier lifestyle, try walking -- the most popular form of exercise.

It's easy, safe, and inexpensive. It's also relaxing and at the same time invigorating, requires little athletic skill, and does not call for club membership or special equipment other than sturdy, comfortable shoes. And it is fun and natural -- good for your mind and self-esteem.

The results of walking are physically rewarding -- a trim, fit body better able to enhance general health and add enjoyable years to your life.

Fundamental walking -- also called healthwalking -- can be done almost anywhere and at any time, year around -- to the store, in the mall or in your neighborhood; alone, with your dog, or with others; and at your own pace. It is simple, uncomplicated -- physical fitness at your leisure.

Walking benefits most everybody, regardless of age. About 67 million men and women are walking regularly. Convinced that it is good exercise, they're making it a part of their daily routine. And their numbers are increasing every year, according to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

A Sure Way To Fitness

For those with a long history of inactivity, problems with obesity, or who just don't like strenuous activity, walking is an excellent way to begin an exercise program. You can start slowly, then increase your speed and maintain a steady pace. A good conditioning program begins with moderation and dedication.

Podiatric and family physicians recommend walking to ease or ward off a number of physically related ills. Walking can help you:

bulletStrengthen your heart and lungs, and improve circulation.
bulletPrevent heart attacks and strokes.
bulletReduce obesity and high blood pressure.
bulletBoost your metabolic rate.
bulletFavorably alter your cholesterol.
bulletImprove muscle tone in your legs and abdomen.
bulletReduce stress and tension.
bulletReduce arthritis pain; stop bone tissue decay.

Walking: There's An Art To It

Before you start walking, some simple warmup exercises -- but not strenuous, advanced stretching -- can give your muscles added flexibility. Body twists at the waist, in a slow hula-hoop motion, and a few toe-touching or knee-bend exercises are appropriate. When you're ready to begin, the best way to start is walking 20 uninterrupted minutes at least three times a week. Walk at a comfortable pace, slowing down if you find yourself breathing heavily. Don't tire yourself. If 20 minutes is too much, cut back to l0 or l5 minutes. You can gradually increase your time and pace as your body adapts to the exercise.

There are several ways to measure your pace. One is to walk on routes which you have pre-measured with your car's odometer. Perhaps the simplest is to use a wristwatch. Count the number of steps you take in a 15-second period; if you're taking 15 in that time, you're walking about two miles an hour. At about 23, you're probably going three miles an hour, and at 30, the pace is close to four miles an hour.

You may want to keep an activity log, in which you jot down the dates, times, and estimated distances of your walks, plus other notes, such as routes, milestones, and incidental experiences.

Some Walking Tips:

bulletMove at a steady pace, brisk enough to make your heart beat faster. Breathe more deeply.
bulletWalk with your head erect, back straight, abdomen flat. Keep your legs out front and your knees slightly bent.
bulletSwing your arms freely at your sides.
bulletAs you walk, land on the heel of your foot and roll forward to push off on the ball of your foot.
bulletAt least at the beginning, confine your walks to level stretches of flat surfaces, avoiding excessively steep hills and embanked roadways.
bulletIf you're walking in the evening, be sure to wear clothing with reflective material sewn in, or otherwise attached.
bulletCool down after a long, brisk walk to help pump blood back up from your legs to where it's needed. Here's where some stretching exercises can be helpful. A good one is standing about three feet from a wall, with your hands flat on the wall. Then take five or six small steps backward, maintaining your hand contact with the wall. Repeat the exercise five to ten times.

Racewalking

Racewalking is a very specific technique that's used by walkers for both fitness and competition. It has greater aerobic benefits than healthwalking, since it is faster and increases the heartbeat rate.

If you get to the point where you think racewalking is for you, there are clubs which can be contacted in most places.

Walking Footwear: Comfort and Fit

Choose a good quality, lightweight walking shoe with breathable upper materials, such as leather or nylon mesh. The heel counter should be very firm; the heel should have reduced cushioning to position the heel closer to the ground for walking stability. The front or forefoot area of the shoe should have adequate support and flexibility.

Fit is very important. Go to a reputable store and have both shoes fitted for length and width with the socks you'll be using. (Do this late in the afternoon, since your feet do swell enough during the day to affect your shoe size.) Make sure the shoe is snug, but not too tight over the sock. The shoe should have plenty of room for the toes to move around. Several walking shoes have qualified to use the APMA Seal of Acceptance.

Your choice of athletic socks is also important. Sports podiatrists frequently recommend appropriately padded socks of acrylic fiber. Acrylic fibers tend to "wick" away excessive perspiration, which active feet can produce from 250,000 sweat glands at a rate of four to six ounces a day, or even more. Again, there are popular brands of athletic socks which are authorized to use APMA's Seal of Acceptance.

Some Other Tips:

bulletCheck on the shoe width; it must comfortably accommodate the width of the ball of your foot.
bulletMake sure you get good arch support.
bulletSee that the top of the heel counter of the shoe is properly cushioned and does not bite into the heel or touch the ankle bones.

Do You Need A Checkup?

If you are free of serious health problems, you can start walking with confidence. Walking is not strenuous; it involves almost no risk to health. You should, of course, exercise good judgment, not exceed the limits of your condition, and not walk outdoors during extreme weather periods, until you have a good walking program established.

You should, however, consult your family or podiatric physician before you begin a walking regimen. A checkup is suggested, particularly if you are over 60, have a disease or disability, or are taking medication. It is also recommended for those who are 35-60, substantially overweight, easily fatigued, excessive smokers, or have been physically inactive.

One of your physicians will help you determine your proper walking heart rate. Heart rate is widely accepted as a good method for measuring intensity during walking and other physical activities. The formula says that subtracting your age from the number 220 yields your maximum heart rate (beats per minute), and that the proper walking rate is 60-70 percent of that number. For a 50-year-old, that's 220 minus 50 equals 170; 60 percent of that is 102 and 70 percent is 119. Other factors should be considered, though; a physician's advice is the best indicator of your correct rate.

You are now ready to begin a walking program. It is a prescription for a healthier, happier life..

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Walking Tips From The APMA
 

Getting Started

bullet
Move at a steady pace, brisk enough to make your heart beat faster. Breathe more deeply.
bullet
Walk with your head erect, back straight, abdomen flat. Keep your legs out front and your knees slightly bent.
bullet
Swing your arms freely at your sides.
bullet
As you walk, land on the heel of your foot and roll forward to push off on the ball of your foot.
bullet
At least at the beginning, confine your walks to level stretches of flat surfaces, avoiding excessively steep hills and embanked roadways.
bullet
If you're walking in the evening, be sure to wear clothing with reflective material sewn in, or otherwise attached.
bullet
Cool down after a long, brisk walk to help pump blood back up from your legs to where it's needed. Here's where some stretching exercises can be helpful. A good one is standing about three feet from a wall, with your hands flat on the wall. Then take five or six small steps backward, maintaining your hand contact with the wall. Repeat the exercise five to ten times.

Shoe Tips:

bulletCheck on the shoe width; it must comfortably accommodate the width of the ball of your foot.
bulletMake sure you get good arch support.
bulletSee that the top of the heel counter of the shoe is properly cushioned and does not bite into the heel or touch the ankle bones.

Your podiatric physician/surgeon has been trained specifically and extensively in the diagnosis and treatment of all manners of foot conditions. This training encompasses all of the intricately related systems and structures of the foot and lower leg including neurological, circulatory, skin, and the musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.

 

Reprinted with permission from the American Podiatric Medical Association

Which Orthotic / Arch Support Should I Use?

Dr Nelson's comments: 
The best fitting and functioning type of arch support is a custom made prescription orthotic, which can be made by your podiatrist.  Generally, for most people, I recommend trying a pre-made arch support before progressing to an expensive pair of custom made orthotics.  Finding a comfortable and effective pre-made arch support can be difficult.  There are hundreds of varieties on the market and that can make it confusing for customers.  Due to the variations in people's foot shapes, foot problems and style variations in different products, there is no "one type fits all" arch support available.  That's why DrNelsonClinic offers different brands and models like OrthoFeet, SuperFeet, WalkFit and PowerStep to choose among.  Fortunately, for most people, I've found that the OrthoFeet BioSole gel self-molding orthotics work for almost everybody.  Among the hundreds of pre-made arch supports I've seen and used, the OrthoFeet BioSole models give the best support and pain relief for people with plantar fasciitis and heel pain.  It's by far my favorite model for people with heel pain, due in part to the higher arch and shock absorbing gel under the heel.  Be aware that the standard OrthoFeet BioSole "sport" model is rather thick through the arch and it fits into athletic, work boots and walking shoes, but may not fit into a shallow shoe, like a dress shoe.  If you want to use the OrthoFeet in a shallow shoe, like a dress shoe, then use the "thin-line" or "high heel dress" models.  The "sport" model may also be too high in the arch area for people with very flat feet.  For elderly or arthritic people and those that want extra cushioning and softness under the foot, while still getting extra support under the arch, try the OrthoFeet BioSole "soft" model.  If you don't need extra arch support or heel pain relief  and only want shock absorption and cushioning under the foot, try the OrthoFeet "ThermoFit" model.  After you start using the arch supports, remember to break them in gradually, because is will take some time for the orthotic and your feet to adjust to each other.  I personally use the OrthoFeet BioSole sport model in my athletic shoes and have found them to be as effective and comfortable as my expensive custom prescription orthotics.  But, it did take longer to "break-in" the OrthoFeet supports than my custom orthotics.  If you don't have plantar fasciitis or heel pain or if you have a flat foot and can't tolerate an arch support with a higher arch, but still want foot support to relieve foot fatigue and strain, you should also consider the popular SuperFeet Synergizer orthotics.  In general, I highly recommend OrthoFeet BioSole over any other brand of arch support.

 

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Last modified: 10/13/10