Couple fitness walking
Fitess walking can be an important part of diabetes management.

Fitness Walking

by Rich Pulham

Exercise is an important part of the treatment of diabetes. Diet alone is not enough. But exercise also seems to be the most difficult to begin. This need not be the case.

The solution is fitness walking. It has many advantages. Walking is easy to start regardless of your fitness level. Special equipment is not required. You set your own pace. You do it at your convenience and at a location of your choosing.

Health Benefits of Walking

Reduces risk of heart attack. It exercises the heart and makes it stronger. LDL cholesterol (the bad one) is reduced while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good one).

Helps control high blood pressure. Walking not only helps your heart, it may help reduced high blood pressure.

Helps manage diabetes. Regular exercise helps prevent or obesity, one of the risk factors for developing diabetes. Appetite levels are reduced. The body's ability to process blood sugars is increased.

Reduces stress. Exercise reduces stress and increases a sense of well-being. Because you feel better, you are able to do more. It becomes easier to manage your diabetes.

Increases freedom and mobility. As you reach old age, your risk of falling is reduced. You remain mobile and independent for a longer period of time.

Reduces risk of osteoporosis. Walking not only exercises the muscles but it adds the stress needed to maintain bone density.

Necessary Equipment

Walking shoes
It is important to have a good pair of walking shoes.

Walking shoes. You will need a good pair of walking shoes. These should give support for the foot, be comfortable, and have a shock-absorbing sole, particularly at the heel. Many athletic shoes are inexpensive and will fulfill this requirement.

Comfortable clothing. Walking should be enjoyable. Wear the type of clothing that will make it so. Remember that your body will heat up as you walk so you may want to dress in layers that can be removed. If you walk after dark, bright, reflective materials will help you be seen.

Watch or timer. You will need to measure the length of time of your walk. This will help keep you from overdoing it when you start, measure your progress, and help you raise your fitness level. Many digital watches have a stop watch function that makes timing easy.

Water. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your walk. For longer walks carry a water bottle with you.

How to Get Started

Check with your doctor. If you are over 40 and haven't exercised for some time or have a medical condition that may interfere with fitness walking, consult with your doctor first.

Select a route. You may choose to start with a walk around the block. If hot or cold weather is a factor, walk in a nearby mall. Distance is less important because you can repeat your route as many times as necessary.

Warm up. Don't start off your walk going full blast. Spend about 5 minutes warming up. This can be done as a few standing exercises or walking at a slower pace.

Stretch out. After a 5 minute warm-up, it is a good time to stretch out. Stretch both your legs and your torso. Walking uses the whole body.

Stretching during a walk
After a 5 min. warm-up and at the end of your walk, be sure to stretch out your muscles.

Pick up the tempo. Now that you are warmed up and stretched out, add a little speed. Avoid going too fast. You don't want to become out of breath. That is no longer "aerobic" exercise. And you may wipe out before you return to your starting point.

Cool down. Near the end of your walk, slow your pace to allow yourself to cool down. You want your breathing and heart rate to drop to near normal. This usually takes about 5 minutes. The process helps clear lactic acid from your muscles reducing the chance of getting cramps as well as reducing soreness and stiffness.

Stretch out again. This is the most effective time to stretch out. Hold each position for about 10 seconds for maximum effect. Never bounce against your muscles as you increase the chance of injury with adding any extra benefit.

Keep a Record of Your Progress

It doesn't matter what the length of time is that you start. Do it consistently for 5 or more days a week. If walking for 10 minutes is the most you can do comfortably, that will do. Keep track of it.

Continue your timed walks becomes until they become easier. This is usually about a week if you are walking regularly. Then add 5 minutes to your walk and go that length of time until you are comfortable with it.

Tracking the time of your walks helps you see your progress and makes it easier to keep going. Be sure to keep track of your body size as well. A change in your waist size is a real indicator of progress.

Also note your favorite routes and the time of day you followed them. Some may be more enjoyable at a certain time of day.

Depending of the fitness level you desire, most of us will want to reach 30 to 60 minutes of walking exercise a day. Once that time is easy for you, begin changing the terrain. Adding hills can increase your fitness level without adding more time to your walks.

Once you have achieved the level you desire, walking 3 or 4 times a week will maintain that level.

Make It Fun

Don't become bored with your routine. You want it to become an enjoyable part of your day. There are several ways you can do this.

Vary your routine. Change your route to make it more interesting. Just reversing the direction will make it a new walk. Change the time of day you walk. A route in early morning may look very different than in the evening. Your body may also respond differently to a change in the time of day.

Walk with a friend. Having company makes walking more pleasurable. Remember that you should not be exerting yourself to the point where you are unable to carry on a conversation without gasping for air.

Listen to music or audio books. An mp3 player can add enrichment to your walks. Music can help you feel calm and relaxed or excited and motivated depending on your selection. Audio books can help educate you and give a sense of purpose to your walks.

Set performance goals. Having goals can help keep you motivated and add satisfaction to your accomplishments. Plan where you want to be in a month, 6 months, and a year.

Walking is the perfect exercise for nearly everyone. It is easy to start even if you have not exercised in years. It requires little more than a good pair of shoes. And it improves your quality of life.

Best of all, fitness walking helps you control your diabetes.

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