Walking Poles

Photo Credit: Anwi CC-BY-2.5-IT

Walking using walking poles, called Nordic walking, is a great way to exercise your arms, shoulders, back and chest muscles during a walk. Nordic walking turns a leisurely walk into a full-body workout. The arm movements when Nordic walking gets your heart pumping for aerobic fat burning. In addition to increasing the intensity of your walk, using walking poles also helps improve your balance and provides points of stability when walking on uneven trails. When you use walking poles, your posture is improved and your back muscles get a good workout while you walk. 
Using walking poles can seem a bit cumbersome at first, but once you get the hang of it, Nordic walking will feel natural. Start out by holding the poles in your hands close to your body with the wrist strap loosely around your wrist. Grip the pole with a relaxed hand so that the poles can swing forward. Allow the poles to swing from your wrist while in your hand. Think about how your arms swing naturally when you walk. When your right foot is forward, your right arm swings toward your back and your left arm swings forward. When your lead foot touches the ground, swing the opposite pole forward and allow it to touch the ground parallel to the heel of your lead foot. As you step forward, push back on the lead pole and simultaneously bring the other pole toward the front in time with your stride. Keep your arms relaxed when walking. The goal is to swing the poles in rhythm with your stride. 

Social Fitness

Photo Credit: www.localfitness.com.au
Do you exercise alone at home or at the gym? Sometimes belonging to a group of like-minded people can be a great motivator. Friendly competitions or simply sharing time with others can make exercise more enjoyable, strengthen friendships and increase your social circle. How can you engage your current friends and find new friends through exercise? Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Communities across the USA are starting walking groups. Join a local walking group to make new friends. Start your own walking group if you can’t find one in your area. Recruit current friends, family and co-workers. Encourage them to bring someone with them, too. Schedule walks when the most people can join in the fun and exercise. Choose start locations that are convenient to the majority of the group and have fun!
Take a dance class for the aerobic exercise and to make new friends. Dancing, like ballroom dancing or Salsa dancing, is a low-impact form of exercise that is effective and fun! You can probably find a dance class close to your home. You don’t have to have a dance partner to join a class. There are almost always partners ready to dance with you. Line dancing is a popular dance style and doesn’t require a partner. You’re sure to make new friends and get a good workout at a dance class. 
Most gyms offer group exercise opportunities, such as yoga, martial arts, Pilates and dance aerobics classes.  Join an exercise group at your local fitness center or gym to make friends and get fit at the same time. Those who need a more personal touch when it comes to exercise may consider a small-group exercise class offered by certified personal trainers. Personal trainers sometimes offer group training with 10 or fewer participants in the group. 

Are Toning Shoes For You?

Toning shoes are popular among many walkers, joggers and runners. Some makers claim that toning shoes can firm and tone your legs while helping you to burn more calories to lose weight. Makers of toning shoes claim their shoes are designed to simulate walking barefoot or walking on uneven terrain to make your leg muscles work harder with ever step. Do toning shoes really firm, tone and strengthen your legs while helping you to burn more calories? 
According to the Mayo Clinic’s Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., there is no evidence to support the claim that toning shoes give you a better leg workout or help you to burn more calories. Dr. Laskowski stated that there is no harm in wearing the shoes and wearers may benefit from wearing the shoes if owning and wearing a pair causes them to increase their physical activity. 
Photo Credit: Steve Ling CC-BY-2.0
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) conducted a study to test the effectiveness of toning shoes. ACE tested the comparative effectiveness of toning shoes against regular walking shoes and found no evidence to support the claims that toning shoes burn more calories, tone or strengthen muscles. Researchers stated that if owning a pair of toning shoes provided the wearer with the motivation to get more exercise generally, then the shoes provided some benefit. The ACE study did not address the potential effects on the wearer’s balance due to the unstable design of the shoe sole.
The bottom line on toning shoes seems to be they provide no additional benefit to the wearer when it comes to burning extra calories or strengthening and toning leg muscles. If you like them and owning a pair motivates you to get more exercise, that is definitely a plus for these shoes. 

Start Walking and Get Fit

Walking is one of the easiest exercises to help you lose weight, firm and tone your body and get fit. You don’t need expensive exercise equipment or a gym membership to walk your way to weight-loss and fitness. People who walk regularly can experience lower cholesterol, stronger bones, improved circulation and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. You do need a good pair of walking shoes for proper support. See your doctor for a checkup and a podiatrist if you have any problems, such as pain and soreness in your feet, ankles or knees.
Photo Credit: Sarah N CC-BY-2.0 2004
A busy lifestyle or hectic work schedule are not barriers to walking and other exercise. You need about 30 minutes of exercise each day to lose weight, maintain your weight and stay fit. You don’t have to get your 30 minutes of walking exercise in one session. Break up your daily walk into short, 10-minute periods of walking. Walk before work, during your lunch break and after work. Wake an hour earlier each day and walk for 15 minutes. Walk for 10 minutes before lunch or walk a few blocks to your favorite deli for a salad and some fruit for lunch. Walk to work if your job is 30 minutes or less from your home. Vary your route to avoid becoming bored with your daily walk. Walking the dog is a perfect opportunity to get some exercise. Your dog will enjoy the long walk and you can enjoy the benefits of walking. Take part in a walking tour of the historic section of your town or in a nearby city. Pair up with a walking partner or join a walking group to help keep you motivated.

Don’t get discouraged! Set realistic goals when it comes to exercise, fitness and weight-loss. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, you may become exhausted after only 10 minutes of walking, that’s okay! Don’t give up. Walk for 10 minutes each day until you can finish your walk feeling energized. Gradually increase your walking time by 5 or 10 minutes until you can walk for 30 minutes without becoming exhausted. 
When you are walking for 30 minutes without feeling tired pick up the pace. Walk faster to get more from your walk. Try adding some ankle weights to help strengthen your ankles and knees. Use ankle weights with a normal walking gait. Don’t use them for brisk walking or jogging exercise. Carry a 5 pound dumbbell in each hand to help strengthen your arms and increase the cardio benefits of your walk. 

For more information and walking tips, see:

WebMD, Make Your Walk a Workout, by Linda Melone, Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD,2011