6 Tips: Walking for Fitness
If you’re a new mom (or dad!) and you’re ready to get back into fitness, walking offers a variety of benefits. It’s not overly taxing on the body like long distance running can be, and yet regular walking can result in lower blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol and higher good cholesterol. It can also slim your waistline, so if you want to shed a few leftover pregnancy pounds, pulling on your walking shoes can help. And an added bonus: You can take the kiddos along (if you have a big enough stroller, of course!).
Some people believe walking isn’t ‘high impact’ enough to burn calories, but walking at a brisk pace for half an hour can burn anywhere from 150 to 240 calories or so depending on your weight and stride.
The one thing I loved about walking after having my daughters was I could do it anywhere at any time, and I could do it with them. While young infants can’t ride in jogging strollers, they CAN ride in a regular stroller while you walk. I always tried to time my exercise times for nap times, so baby would take a short snooze while I cruised the neighborhood or park trails.
Here are a few tips for starting out a new walking program after baby arrives!
- As with every exercise, start slowly after your doctor gives his or her okay. In running we follow a ten percent rule, which is this: Don’t increase over ten percent each week. So if I run eight miles as my longest run one week, I shouldn’t go past 8.8 the next week. This decreases the risk of injury, and it works in walking too. Start off doing half an hour four or five times per week. Slowly increase as you feel up to it.
- Buy good shoes. Enough can’t be said about the benefit of exercising in proper shoes. They assist with your gait and help decrease the risk of injury. Yes, you can have knee and foot problems with walking just as you can with running, so take care of those tootsies! Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, says “Invest in a good pair of shoes or walking-friendly sandals that are breathable, offer good arch support, are relatively lightweight and have flexible soles to allow the front of your foot to flex comfortably.”
- Drink up! We may not think about drinking water while walking as we do with jogging or running, but it’s important to do so, especially on hotter days or if you are breastfeeding. Dehydration can affect your milk supply if you breastfeed, and it can make you sick. Pack water (you don’t need a sports drink unless you are running more than sixty minutes or in extreme heat) and sip as you go.
- Plan your route. Dr. Weil recommends walkscore.com to check on the walkability of your route. When my kids were little we were lucky enough to live near Target, the grocery store, the library and a variety of other shops. I used to walk everywhere we went. I would plan my exercise time around the errands that I needed to get done, and I would do them both at the same time.
- Pack what you might need. When my kids were small and I walked with them in the stroller, I was as loaded down as Santa on Christmas Eve. I figured the packed stroller could be considered strength training! I wanted to make sure I would have everything I could ever possibly need while we were out, like diapers, wipes, snacks, toys, books, pacifiers, bottles, a changing pad, a blankie, and anything else my baby girls loved.
- Practice walking meditation. Exercise is a great time to spend a bit of time in your mind reflecting on life, yourself and your family. If you go for a half hour walk, ditch the music for at least part of the time, concentrate on breathing and focus on working through any stress you might feel. I promise you will return home with renewed energy and a calmer state of mind, which will make you more prone to walk again the next day!