Walking the walk: The Argus Group has developed a number of walking routes in the City of Hamilton, ranging from two to four-miles, which will help you start a regular walking regime. *Photo supplied
Walking the walk: The Argus Group has developed a number of walking routes in the City of Hamilton, ranging from two to four-miles, which will help you start a regular walking regime. *Photo supplied
Getting fit and losing weight are always popular New Year’s resolutions. Starting a new regime or taking your current walking routine to the next level is a good way to start 2011.

Walking is the easiest form of exercise, even for some who have a major health problem or disability. It’s flexible enough to suit your schedule and you can even vary your routes by including beaches and parks at the weekend when you have more time. It’s sociable: you can catch up with family, friends and colleagues along the route. It’s cheap: you don’t need to join an expensive gym — all you need is a good pair of shoes.

Walking is a great cardiovascular activity, reducing both blood pressure and cholesterol. It also helps to burn calories, boost energy and increase the metabolic rate.

Exercise can help to manage the symptoms of stress by making use of the adrenaline and sugar produced in your body as a result of anxiety, instead of it being left to damage your heart, cause weight gain and poor sleep.

Your muscles will get a great workout from walking — especially your calves and gluteals — which will help to improve your flexibility.

Above all, an active lifestyle helps to prevent and manage disease. You don’t have to run a marathon to reap the rewards of exercise. Cancer risk is lowered with increased physical activity, especially by moving from inactivity to moderate activity.

The leading cause of heart disease is physical inactivity and research suggests that half an hour of aerobic exercise daily can cut the risk of a fatal heart attack by 60 per cent for those with existing heart disease.

Studies show that low aerobic fitness increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in particular and overall disease and deaths in people with diabetes. Exercise also improves the action of insulin, resulting in improved blood sugar levels.

Being physically active can also help protect your bones against osteoporosis, relieve arthritis and back pain, lower the risk of gallstones and impotence, reduce anxiety and depression and help delay the effects of aging.

So there are lots of reasons to get up and get moving.

Before starting a walking programme, bear in mind that good footwear is your best protection against injury. You should replace old shoes as they can contribute to injuries such as shin splints, as well as general foot and leg fatigue.

Remember, shoe cushioning loses its effectiveness after 500 miles, often long before soles or uppers show wear. You need shoes that fit properly and are correct for your foot type, weight, gender and the distance you plan to cover.

Look for uppers made from mesh or with air holes to allow your feet to breathe.

Wearing the right socks is also important to ensure your feet stay dry, comfortable and cushioned. Choose a sock that fits snugly on your foot and is made of polyester, polyester blend, or CoolMax fabric as these materials pull moisture away from your skin and reduce the chance of blisters.

Wear comfortable clothing. Again, choose polyester or CoolMax fabrics to draw the moisture away from your skin to the outside of the garment, where it will evaporate more quickly. These fabrics result in less chafing and bacteria production. If you are prone to blisters, apply a lubricant to trouble spots before walks.

Hamilton walks

You only need to walk three times a week to obtain a good level of fitness. The Argus Group has developed a number of walking routes in the City of Hamilton, available at www.argus.bm, to make it easier to get started with a regular walking regime.

We have mapped out two-, three- and four-mile routes, so why not start with the two-mile course and work your way up to four miles. All of the routes begin and end at the new Argus Building at 14 Wesley Street, so they are accessible to those working in Hamilton.

If you are walking specifically to lose weight then it is interesting to note that a study by the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that walking for 45 minutes, four times a week, resulted in an average weight loss of 17 lbs in one year, without any form of dietary changes.

Another way of measuring your progress is to use a pedometer to track the number of steps you take each day.

A pedometer is a small, inexpensive device that clips onto your waistband. Start by using the pedometer over a three-day period to determine the average number of steps you normally take each day.

Then increase it by 1,000 to 2,000 steps for the first week.

Each consecutive week, aim to increase your steps by 1,000 to 2,000 until you reach 8,000 to 10,000 steps on at least five days.

If you are currently sedentary, 10,000 steps a day may seem like a lot of walking but by gradually increasing your average number of steps, it becomes a more achievable goal. If you are already active then 10,000 steps may not be enough of a challenge, so set yourself a higher target.

If you don’t have a pedometer, 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to approximately 3,000-4,000 steps depending on your height, stride and pace.

No matter how fast or far you plan to walk, you need to warm up at an easy pace for the first 10 minutes. Stop and stretch after your warm-up to increase blood flow to the muscles, holding stretches for 15 to 20 seconds, while you continue to breathe.

There are lots of small changes you can make to your daily routine to ensure you take more steps. For example, use the stairs rather than an elevator, get up 15 minutes earlier and go for a short walk or park your car further away from stores when you go shopping.

Don’t delay; go for a walk today!