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Walking and Running for Health


There are more options for aerobic exercise than most people realise! You can take an aerobics exercise class, start a swimming regime, cycle, play sports or work in the garden several times a week. All of these require either some kind of equipment, or a special place. But you can get a terrific aerobic workout without anything but your own two feet (preferably encased in suitable shoes). Walking, jogging and running are excellent forms of aerobic exercise, and can be easily accommodated to your schedule, your budget, and your level of fitness.

Running and jogging differ from walking in three ways: they cover ground faster; the gait of the leg is wider (that is, the legs stretch further apart), and the work out is more intense (which simply means that your burn more energy and your heart beats faster). Running requires the most energy output of the three (though power walking, a special form of walking, might come a close second). Though it is less strenuous than jogging, in a situation where all other conditions are the same, walking can be a more valuable and sustainable form of aerobic activity. Walking is low impact, with less stress on the joints and less injury risk than jogging or running. Jogging or running place greater strain on the legs, jarring of internal organs, inter vertebral discs. Over a long period of frequent jogging, a person is more likely to suffer permanent injuries than if they had been walking.

Where and When

A person who plans to walk, job or fun for pleasure or health will have to consider several factors. These include the kind of surface, slope, distance, speed, protection from the elements (sun, wind, rain, cold), safety and security, and timing.

The surface which you run or walk on can be very important. A hard surface will cause more jarring or impact upon the joints, hence an increased chance of injury. Some resilience or give in the surface is advantageous and for this reason, artificial track surfaces, sand or turf may be better. However, running or walking barefoot on the beach can result in foot problems. Sand does not provide as much support as a more solid surface, and this can result in greater strain on foot muscles. On the other hand, the softness of a sandy beach necessitates more effort in the walking stride and works the heart and legs muscles more than walking on asphalt does.

Running or walking up or down slopes uses different muscles. Usually, more effort is required from quadriceps and gluteal muscles when jogging up hill. There are more eccentric contractions when going downhill, resulting in more muscle soreness and a higher impact. Beach and road running often occurs on a surface that slopes to the side, which can place a lot of repetitive strain on the knees, ankles, hips and lower back, due to unbalanced side pressure.

The distance you travel needs to be planned thoughtfully if you are training outside. If you go too far and are not fit, you can tire before you make it back home. iDetermine the distance you can reasonably walk or run, and aim to maintain an even pace over that distance. For variety, you may wish to modify the pace at various times. Ensure you have access to water. On your first few walks or jogs, be easy on yourself - do not plan for a marathon. Select an easy pace and a short comfortable distance. You are more likely to enjoy yourself, which means that you are more likely to continue with the program.

Safety and security can be of particular concern when running at night. If you are running in public places or on the street or sidewalk, wear clothing that can be seen, perhaps with reflectors, or white surfaces. Remember that many people with poor night vision drive at night, and may not see you in time to stop or slow down. At night, be sure to run on flat or even terrain to avoid tripping on bumps or falling over tree roots. Also, avoid places with clusters of bushes or other places where you can be ambushed by thieves or others.

Kinds of Walking

Aerobic Walking includes any kind of sustained, brisk walking. To achieve best results, hold your body upright, face forward (not down). When you walk, the heel should be planted first, then rolled, pushing off with the toe. Toes should face forward (not to the side (not even slightly side ways); shoulders should be slightly back, and for greater stability arms should move in opposition to legs (that is, left arm should be back when left leg is forward). A slow stroll for a short distance will not give you a significant aerobic work out, but the following ways of walking will. Below are some ways to increase your aerobic workout through walking.

Speed or Power Walking

This type of walking can require a little more motor skill coordination, particularly if it is to be sustained for a full work out period of half an hour or more. You need a steady rhythm that is brisk enough to raise a light sweat. The arms must move as well as legs. Take longer than normal walking strides, and wear comfortable shoes with good support, and comfortable clothes. To increase the speed and energy expended, push back hard on each step. Keep elbows bent and fists lightly closed. This can look silly -but put your ego aside. A ten minute power walk can be an excellent start to an aerobics work out. By itself, a twenty or thirty minute power walk can be a great work out.

Pole Walking

This involves walking with two walking sticks (poles), and is the safest, and perhaps best, way to increase aerobic effort in a walk. The poles are used like ski poles. By pushing on them as you walk, you increase the intensity of exercise is increased, and at the same time you are provided with greater stability. The poles work better if they have rubber bases to absorb any jarring. A beginner who walks this way at a rate of 4-5 km per hour may get a useful work out. For more advanced training the walking rate should increase to 6 to 7 km per hour.

Weighted Walking

This involves carrying weights as you walk, either in your hands, or weights attached to your body (for example, in a weight belt). Excessive use of weights can,. However, strain the parts of the body which supports the weights, so be careful.


For most unfit people, jogging continually for half an hour or more can change an aerobic work out into anaerobic exercise, which means that your body is not getting enough oxygen, which can cause muscle pain. A better alternative is intermittent jogging or walking. Generally, beginners should jog for 100 to 200 metres then walk for 50 metres; repeat this pattern for half an hour; or you can alternate between a 5 minute jog and a 2 minute walk, depending on your fitness level. A beginner might start with 1 minute jog followed by a 1 minute walk.

Advanced training can involve a faster rate of jogging for similar distances, lengthening the jogging segments, or an overall increase in the duration of the session. For example, instead of a beginner’s 25 minute work out, you might progress to a 45 min to 1 hour work out. Whatever you do, stay within your limits. It is best to wear a heart rate monitor and ensure that you do not exceed the recommended 75% of MHR (MHR equals 200 minus your age).

You can jog in all sorts of places: along streets, cross country, on park tracks, around an oval, or on a treadmill. Fun and fitness trails are jogging tracks that have exercise stations along their length to add interest and variety to the work out. The idea can be to jog for short distances then undertake an exercise such as push ups or chin ups at the exercise station. By interspersing different exercises between bouts of jogging, you can create the same effect as alternating periods of jogging and walking.

What to avoid when Running, Jogging or Walking

*Poor rhythm

*Too much bounce

*Arms or trunk moving out of balance

*Trunk twisting or leaning too far forward

*Swinging the arms too much or too little

*Swinging your arms in front of your body rather than at the sides

*Landing flat on your foot rather than rolling the foot

*Moving the foot or lower leg out to the side rather than straight forward

*Landing on your toes.

Now, armed with this information, you have only to get started, and enjoy the benefits of improved aerobic health and stamina, and a greater sense of psychological wellbeing.


Further Information:
The authors of this article are staff of ACS Distance Education. This school operates from both Australia and the UK, offering over 350 courses (Hobby and Vocational). See www.acs.edu.au, www.acsedu.co.uk For Careers Advice see www.thecareersguide.com

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