The steps in walking
September 13, 2007
Every day you see a few more walkers hitting the sidewalks. They travel in packs. That way they can intimidate the nonwalkers, the dogs and all nonfitness types who are driving instead of walking. I applaud the tenacity it takes to buck the wind, smoke, dirt and exhaust fumes.
Walking is an easy, quick way to accomplish exercise, and it’s always available. It builds cardiovascular endurance, it builds muscle strength in the legs, and it burns fat. And there are a lot of people out there who could do with more burned fat.
Here are some very dull, dry facts about your walking sport. Most of you know that when you walk, your heel hits the ground first. In an aerobics class, the toe hits first. So, it stands to reason that you will need a different shoe for walking to protect the stressed areas of your foot.
When you walk, you hit the ground first with the heel, the outer part; you tend to roll on the corner of the foot while your weight transfers from heel to toe. This rolling motion distributes the force of the footstep throughout the foot and leg and on up into the spine area if the foot strikes hard.
As you roll on forward with the foot, you roll onto the toes and push off for another step. A normal foot strike will tend to supinate or tilt on the outer part of the heel and pronate, or roll on the inside of the foot, as the foot rolls forward onto the toes. This normal roll of the foot needs the support of good walking shoes that counteract the stress of irregular surfaces you walk on.
If you are female, you can walk on average at speeds of between 3.5-4 mph. Men can hit speeds of 4-5 mph. Most of the people I see walking don’t hit those levels, at least while I’m watching.
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Get yourself a pedometer and test your speed. Brisk walking will get the pulse up to 130 or better. An easy way to measure your ability is to count how many steps you take within a minute and divide that number by 30. If you take 105 steps in that minute, you will be traveling at 3.5 mph.
One other variable to consider – walking uphill. Obviously, hill walking burns more calories and raises the pulse higher. Add a few hills for a little challenge. The same thing applies to stairs. Stair-climbing is good exercise, but no one does it for 20 minutes.
A 190-pound male will burn 17.5 calories per minute climbing stairs. When you multiply that one out, you have a whopping 3,500 calories. That’s one whole pound. Going downstairs burns only 6.7 calories so spend your energy on the upgrade and take the elevator down.
When the weather cools, buy a pair of walking shoes and start counting the miles. You’ll still have to work on stomach muscles, but you’ll find yourself enjoying the fresh air and sunshine while you walk your way to fitness.
• Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.