Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise, and it's just outside your front door.  So, lace up your shoes, hit the road and walk this way to better health. 


"As a low-impact weight-bearing exercise, walking provides the convenience many of us need in a fitness plan," said Peggy Fleming, Olympic figure skating champion and HealthSaver spokesperson.  "And brisk walking provides many of the same heart benefits as high intensity exercising."


The National Institutes of Health found that women who walk three to four hours per week reduce the risk of coronary problems by 40 percent.  For men, a daily 30-minute walk can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 18 percent. 


"Mile for mile, walking also burns the same amount of calories as running," said Brad Eggleston, vice president of HealthSaver.  A consistent walking routine will help you manage your weight and, according to the U.S. Department of Health, control your appetite. 


Revive your health and increase your energy with this heel-to-toe routine:

Step Forward

  • During the next week, take a casual walk for up to 30 minutes each day for four days.  Keep track of the time you spend walking each day.  Use the longest time as your daily goal for the next week.  As you reach each benchmark, gradually add five minutes to your goal.  Aim for 30 minutes, five days per week.
  • Choose a safe walking route in a familiar area, preferably during daylight hours.  If you walk on a street without sidewalks, stay close to the curb and face the traffic. If you listen to music from your mp3, be sure the volume is low enough for you to hear oncoming traffic.
  • Wear shoes and clothes that are comfortable.  Drink water before, during and after each walk, even if you're not thirsty.  Remember, proper hydration is the key to effective exercise.

Be Efficient

  • Correct form will help you gain more from your walking workout.  Stand tall as you pull your belly button toward your spine.  This will help control your stride and engage your stomach muscles.
  • Your arm swing should feel natural, with arms bent at the elbow and shoulders relaxed.  As you increase intensity, use your arms to push yourself forward.  Be sure to look where you're headed, not down at the ground.
  • As you pick up the pace, you'll increase your speed and therefore the distance you cover.  Focus on quicker strides, not longer ones.  Aim for approximately 50 steps per 20 seconds.  If you can't carry on a conversation, you're probably walking too fast.  Be sure to take deep breaths while you walk.

Take Care of your Muscles

  • To prepare your body for each workout, it's essential to warm up, stretch and cool down.  To begin, take five minutes to walk at a slow pace, or at about 50 percent of your anticipated intensity.  This will increase the blood flow to your muscles.
  • Next, stretch your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, neck and lower back.  Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.  Do not bounce.
  • To complete your workout, gradually slow down your pace to cool your muscles.  This will help you avoid soreness and injuries.

Spice It Up

  • To strengthen different muscles and avoid burn-out, periodically vary your exercise routine.  First, hit the hills.  The incline will tone your legs and backside. 
  • Recruit a walking partner.  You may be less likely to skip your workouts if someone is relying on you - and keeping you accountable.
  • Don't have time to fit a 30-minute walk into your schedule?  Break it up into 10-minute intervals: one before breakfast, one with a co-worker for an afternoon pick-me-up, and, as you wait for your child to finish sports practice, another quick walk around the field.

Walking is a perfect opportunity to relax and unwind.  Easy as it is, you can still stay in shape with walking if you stick to your routine and continue to push yourself.  Take a first step today for a healthier tomorrow.


About HealthSaver

HealthSaver offers discounts of 20 percent on vision care, as well as discounts of 10 to 50 percent on prescriptions at participating pharmacies, 20 percent off complementary and alternative health care treatments and fitness club benefits.  Discounts are based upon reasonable and customary costs or manufacturers suggested retail price (MSRP) and are only available from participating providers. HealthSaver is not an insurance product or service.  More information about HealthSaver is available online at www.healthsaver.com or toll free by calling 800.7HEALTH (800.743.2584).      


About Affinion Group

Affinion Group is a leading affinity direct marketer of value-added membership, insurance and package enhancement programs and services to consumers.  With more than 30 years of experience, Affinion Group currently offers its programs and services worldwide through more than 5,200 affinity partners.  Based in Norwalk, Conn., Affinion Group has approximately 3,000 employees throughout the United States and in 14 countries across Europe.


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