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- American Council on Exercise: Sneaker Savvy
- MayoClinic.com: Aerobic Exercise: How to Warm Up and Cool Down
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Doing a long walk provides an excellent aerobic workout, raising your heart rate for an extended period. However, doing longer workouts can also fatigue your muscles, tendons and joints. Employ a few simple techniques to keep you feeling energized during your walk, protect you from injury and alleviate the consequences of tiring your leg muscles. If you continue to experience problems in your legs, discuss your concerns with your doctor.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Long walks place more demands on your body than shorter workouts. The repetitive nature of walking means you continuously impact your leg joints, tendons and muscles. Good walking shoes help cushion your feet and absorb shock so that your legs feel less fatigued. Choose walking shoes that fit well by trying them on in the afternoon, when your feet have swelled a little from the heat and activities of the day. Bend the shoe from heel to toe to make sure it gives only slightly, affording flexibility without being too lightweight. Cushioning in the heel and the ball of the foot adds more protection from shock. If you have foot problems or injuries, gel inserts may help alleviate muscle pain and fatigue.
Like all aerobic exercise, walking long distances is safer and less stressful if you warm up first 2. Start your walking workout with a slow walk. Breathe deeply, filling your abdomen and chest and exhaling completely. Deep breathing generates more oxygen in your bloodstream and to your muscles. After 10 minutes, you should feel warmer and your muscles and joints looser. Then you can stretch. Rotate your knees, hips and ankles to lubricate your joints. Rock from tiptoe to heel and do some high marches and squats to work your lower body.
Vary Your Workout
Tweak your walking workout so you work diverse muscle groups and protect your joints and tendons. Walking on sand provides resistance but reduces shock. Walking on grass or a dirt path also has less impact than walking on concrete or a blacktop surface. Slow down your pace, but keep your heart rate elevated by walking up steep hills or up a consistent incline. If you stop to rest, avoid getting stiff legs by tapping your toes or doing light leg stretches.
Stopping a long walk abruptly can result in your legs feeling heavy and tired. Spend the last 10 minutes of a long walk doing a cool-down. Slow down your pace. Breathe deeply and raise your arms overhead. Finish with some strengthening and flexibility work such as doing a few lunges or cycling through some yoga poses. Stay hydrated during and after your walk by drinking plain water. If you speed-walk or race-walk and you sweat profusely, drink a beverage that replaces your electrolytes.
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