Whether it’s a brisk hike or a leisurely stroll for some fresh air, walking is one of the best types of exercise for your health.
The American Heart Association recommends 20 to 30 minutes of walking each day to get the best results.
Walking in the colder months will certainly present added challenges compared to a summer stroll—but that doesn’t mean you need to shy away from those cold-weather walks.
Dr. Lazor offers some suggestions on how to establish and maintain a healthy regime, no matter what the season.
Dress for success
Before you even leave the house to go for a walk, there are basic starting points that require careful consideration depending on the weather.
You should dress for the weather and know your terrain.
In cooler months, you’ll need adequate clothing to keep you warm and prevent exposure to the elements. On sunny days—no matter what the season—you need proper protection from the sun.
In any climate, wicking clothing can help absorb moisture, keeping it away from the skin.
Your footwear also needs to match the season and the terrain.
Shoes or hiking boots with clamps or spikes can you help navigate ice or climb hills. Hiking poles help on difficult terrain, although they’re remarkably handy for almost any environment.
If the terrain is level, a supportive shoe will probably suffice. On uneven landscape, hiking shoes are best.
You should also dress for safety, too. Make sure you’re visible to vehicles and other people. A fluorescent vest—or even a blinking light—will help ensure you stand out.
Build a routine—and stick to it
Dr. Lazor encourages people to take time for a proper warmup routine before walking. Light movement and stretching exercises can loosen the muscles.
Also, if you were walking regularly—5 miles a day, for example—and then you stopped walking for a period of time, you should be careful about resuming your former routine, Dr. Lazor said.
While it depends on each person’s experience, it’s best to ease back into a routine. Don’t jump right back into walking a long distance.
On that note, he offers another helpful tip: Try not to deviate from your schedule.
“Whether it’s leisurely walking or for cardiovascular fitness, keep a regular schedule and don’t overtrain,” he said.
Overtraining can lead to pain in the legs or elsewhere, which could discourage you from exercising.
Dr. Lazor also recommends leaving time for a cooldown at the end of your walk. The length of the cooldown will vary depending on the intensity of your exercise.
The higher the intensity, the longer the cooldown. Usually all that’s needed is a slower pace toward the end of your activity, followed by some post-stretching exercises.
And hydration is always important, he said. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluid throughout your routine.
“Generally, for a good walking routine be aware of the environmental conditions,” he said. “Make sure you have the right equipment and clothing for the weather, and pick a routine based on your experience level.”