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Walking for Weight Loss: Quick Start Guide

Prepare for a great workout with these tips on walking gear, technique, and safety.

By Michele Stanten

Walking is easy, right? Most of us do it every day, and we've been doing it since we were children. But it's important to prepare so you get the most out of your workout. Here's what to know about walking gear, technique, and safety.

Gear Up with Supportive Shoes

Whether you're walking on the treadmill or outside, you only need one essential piece of gear: a pair of supportive shoes. Everyone's feet are different, so try on several pairs until you find one that feels good for you.

Go for lightweight, flexible, and low. Heavy shoes will weigh you down. You want soles to bend at the ball of the foot to facilitate a natural walking motion, and you want a low heel that allows you to roll through your foot for a good pushoff.

Shop at a specialty athletic shoe store. You’re more likely to find people with expertise who can help you choose the right shoe than if you go to a chain retailer.

Prioritize comfort. Shoes should have wiggle room at the front, and they should feel good as soon as you put them on—if they don’t, move on to the next pair.

Replace when needed. That’s about every 300 to 500 miles. If you walk about one mile per day, that’s 365 miles per year.

Feel Good with the Right Technique

Moving with proper posture and technique will help your whole body feel better while you’re walking—and after your workout is over.

Stand tall. Imagine there’s a string attached to your head lifting you up toward the sky. Elongating your spine makes it easier to breathe and move your legs.

Roll your shoulders. Move your shoulders up, back, and down. Keeping them relaxed as you walk makes it easier to move your arms.

Look ahead. Gazing about 10 to 20 feet in front of you will help you see obstacles in your path, and avoid tension in your neck and low back.

Step lightly. Roll from your heel to your toes as you step. If you hear thudding or slapping, you may be landing flat-footed or letting your foot come down too quickly.

Avoid Injury with Safety Habits

If you're following any doctor's orders, wearing supportive shoes, and using good form, walking is generally a low-injury activity. But it's smart to take extra steps to protect yourself, especially when walking on the road.

Use the safety clip. Before you start walking on a treadmill, step onto the sides (not the belt), and attach the safety clip to a piece of your clothing. If you lose your balance or fall back, the clip will pop off, and the treadmill will stop immediately.

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Carry ID. If you’re walking outside, an ID will help medical personnel know relevant information and contact your family in case of emergency.

Walk into traffic. No sidewalks? The general rule is to walk against traffic so you can see what’s coming. The exceptions are when walking up hills or around curves. In these situations, you’ll want to switch to the opposite side of the road, walking with traffic temporarily. Remember: If you can’t see a car coming, the driver can’t see you either—and no matter what side you’re on, always be alert.

Wear bright clothing. Red, orange, yellow, and other vibrant colors will stand out more than black, gray, navy, or dark green. The more visible you are to motorists, the quicker they can react to your presence, and the safer you’ll be.

Keep volume low. If you’re listening to music, turn down the volume or use only one earbud—the one away from traffic. You want to be able to hear cars, dogs, strangers, or other hazards.

Light up at night. If you walk at dawn or dusk, invest in reflective gear. You’ll also want to carry a flashlight or use a headlamp so you can see obstacles like branches or uneven pavement.

Now, you should be ready to take your first steps—in an effective, enjoyable, and safe way.

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