Monday, 18 June 2018

Five mobile apps to take with you on your walk

Smartphones sometimes get a bad rap, due to the amount of time most people spend (sitting down) using them. Typically, the more these individuals sit, the less they exercise. There is a "silver lining," however. New walking apps are popping up all the time. Here are a few for your consideration.

1. Walkmeter GPS

Walkmeter GPS is a fitness app available on the iPhone, which allows walkers to transfer a variety of maps to the app via email. The app's race mode allows you to compare your most current time to all of the other times it's taken you to walk the same route in the past. This is great for goal setting. It gives you the opportunity to work toward a specific time while striving to complete favorite routes faster than the time before. To help you get started, training plans and graphs are available through the app, designed to help you track your progress. 

2. World Walking

World Walking is a pedometer app for your phone that keeps track of every step you take throughout the day. What makes the app unique is this: you can easily choose a real-life walking route to compare your steps to. For example, upload the map of the iconic Route 66. Before you know it, you'll have taken enough steps to travel the entire distance. The app also allows users to form clubs comprised of other walkers so that a group can work together to meet a certain goal. 

3. AllTrails

For those who prefer to take their walk into the wilderness, AllTrails is an app that allows you to connect with other hikers in your area. With AllTrails, you can search for trails near your location and view maps to help get you there. In addition, you have access to maps of the actual trails themselves. The app also allows users to post photos from the trail, which makes it much easier to take note of obstacles, climate conditions and tips for hiking the trail. 

4. ViewRanger

The ViewRanger walking app allows your phone to work as a GPS, even in areas without mobile phone coverage. The maps you need are stored directly on the phone and can be viewed at any time. When your cell phone does have service, the phone also displays your current position. ViewRanger is also great to use on the trail, because it allows you to keep track of points of interest along the way.

5. Virtual Walk

Virtual Walk in an award-winning walking app, perfect to use when walking outdoors or on your treadmill. It's simple to plot your distance through either a historic or scenic location. Locations include Washington DC and the Appalachian Trail, just to name two. Additional routes are frequently added; some are free and some are available for a small fee. Not only does Virtual Walk break up the monotony of walking on a treadmill or walking through the same area over and over, it also gives you the chance to see and learn about different places.

There are so many health benefits of walking. Once you start, you'll probably wonder why you haven't taken it up before. Honestly, this is a great time to grab your phone, upload an app and start walking!

Need a reason to walk? No problem. Next, we'll be talking about walking for your favorite charity. 

Friday, 15 June 2018

Tips for walking on various surfaces

Walking is a great way to casually work out that’s both simple and fun. But, where you decide to walk can have an impact on your overall experience. Read on, to find out what you can do to get the most out of walking on several different kinds of surfaces.

Pavement

While walking doesn’t create an extreme amount of impact, the stress it does cause can lead aches and pain over time. To minimize this, wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes any time you plan to spend a lot of time walking on roads, sidewalks or other paved surfaces. You might also consider cushioned insoles (for your shoes) or padded running socks to better protect your feet and legs from shock.

Indoors

Much like streets and sidewalks, the floor at your gym, work or school is very likely a hard surface. Comfortable gym shoes allow you to get a good grip on hard floors, as well as keep your feet from getting sore after a long walk. 

If you plan on doing laps in a room, or walking up and down a given hallway, find out how long your route is and keep track of how many times you walk past a certain mark on a wall or floor. This way, you can easily figure out how far you’ve walked and encourage yourself to go further next time.

Dirt Roads

Taking a walk on a dirt road allows you to enjoy the scenery of nearby rural areas, while still walking on relatively easy terrain. In this case, it may be best to trade in your shoes for comfortable hiking boots in the event you encounter mud or puddles. 

Be sure to stay over to the side of the road when you walk, especially as you approach hilly terrain. Cars coming from the other direction may not see you in time, especially if they're traveling at a high speed.

Nature Trails

Trails make for a fun, diverse hike that affords many breathtaking views. Before setting out on your hike, take some time to familiarize yourself with your route, either by using trail maps or a popular map app. 

Hiking boots are almost a necessity on untamed trails, and you may want to bring an extra pair of socks in case yours get wet. If your hike takes you far from civilization, make sure you pack a cell or satellite phone for use in case of an emergency. And, it may be a good idea to bring a GPS in case you stray from your planned route.

Snow/Ice

Snow and ice often turn a walk across any terrain into a hassle. Always pay attention to where you are about to step when walking in the winter. If an area seems icy, test it by tapping it with your foot before you cross. 

If a section of sidewalk is exceptionally icy, it may be worth it to step around it and into the snow. Another word of caution. Built-up snow drifts can muffle the sound of approaching cars, so always be extra mindful of traffic.  

No matter where you decide to hike, taking breaks to rest your feet and legs saves you a lot of discomforts when the hike is over. Even if you’re walking out in the woods, take the opportunity to rest every now and then. That way, you can focus more on walking and less on your possibly aching muscles.

Up next you'll find five mobile apps that you might want to use to track progress, keep you safe, connect with others and more.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Getting the family involved

Walking is an activity suitable for the whole family. It's not uncommon for older folks and little ones to get involved in the fun. Keep reading to learn more about making the most out of walking as a family activity.

Start Out Small

Your family will probably react more positively to a group exercise plan if you start out small and work your way up to a longer routine. To start out, set a goal that's easy to achieve and forgivable if things don't go as planned. For example, start with a 30-minute walk around your neighborhood, a few times a week. Remember, providing a specific goal increases the likelihood of it becoming a part of your family’s day-to-day routine. 

What to Wear

On any hike, it’s crucial to dress appropriately for both the climate and the locale of the area you're visiting. Make sure everyone wears well-fitting hiking shoes or boots that are comfortable as well as durable. In addition, pack a jacket or long-sleeved shirt for everyone, even if the weather is expected to be warm. You never know when conditions might take a turn for the worst. 

Keep Things Fun

Aside from the exercise, one of the greatest benefits of hiking with the family is the quality time you get to spend together. Keep everyone in good spirits by coming up with games or activities you can do as a family while you walk. A good example of this might be coming up with a scavenger hunt relating to numerous trees and wildflowers. Honestly, nature trails are full of hands-on opportunities for learning fun.

Take Frequent Breaks

Hiking can take a lot out of you. And, it's a pretty sure bet your kids will let you know when they’re getting tired as well. To remedy this, take rest stops frequently to make sure everyone is full of energy and still having a good time. Don't forget to dole out water and snacks during these breaks, to ensure everyone stays well fed and hydrated. 

Establish a Routine

Establish a scheduled time for your family walks. It doesn't matter if it's a nightly lap around the neighborhood or a once-a-month hike through the trails in your local park. When going on a hike becomes routine, it gives the family something to look forward to and sets up a tradition of making memories that just might carry on for years to come. 

Leave No Trace

Teach your kids to respect the environment and their surroundings. Destruction of plant life and other things in nature is needless, not to mention harmful. It also ruins the experience for the next family who decides to take the same route you do. 

If your child inadvertently does something that could cause permanent damage, such as digging a hole, offer your help to fix it and teach them the importance of leaving no trace. 

Why not talk to your family, to gauge everyone's interest in walking as a fun and healthy activity? Try it once and see what happens. Chances are, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. There really is no better time to "take a hike!"

Before you set off on a walk or hike, consider the surface you'll be walking on. Next time, we'll have some tips for you on this. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Common issues faced when walking

Whether it’s around the neighborhood, through the woods or down long country trails, walking or hiking is a great way to work out, unwind and explore the world around you. Walking is free, simple and easily evolves into a group activity. 

However, as with many other activities, walking does carry with it some risks. Here are a few of the most common ones you may encounter, as well as steps you can take to keep yourself safe.

Blisters

Blisters are among the most common types of injury sustained during long walks. Friction between your feet and your footgear irritates the skin and eventually causes blisters to form. The best thing you can do to cut down on the formation of blisters is to make sure you have proper hiking shoes or boots that fit well. 

Shoes that are too loose cause more rubbing across the skin with each step. Investing in performance or hiking socks, which tend to provide more cushion for your feet, can also keep blisters at bay.

Muscle/Joint Pains

When walking, a trip, fall or even a “bad step” can cause a painful joint injury before you know it. This is especially true when walking through the woods or across rough trails. Even a minor sprain makes nature walk far less enjoyable. A significant injury can even leave you stranded.

The best way to avoid an injury like this is to pay close attention to your surroundings as you walk. Even carefully maintained trails can wash out or become covered with overgrown grass and vines. Avoid this kind of uneven terrain, or tread carefully if you can’t. 

Muscle pains can be brought on by the continuous stress a long walk puts on the body. Not only does taking a long walk tire out our legs and feet, the constant use of these muscles and the impact with the ground can also lead to painful inflammation. 

To prevent this, take breaks during your walk and get off your feet if possible. There are also a number of stretches you can do beforehand, focusing on the muscles that become overworked during a walk.

Insect Bites

In some areas, such as the deep woods of northern Michigan, insect bites are a nearly unavoidable inconvenience when you hike. If you’re planning a walk in an area where biting or stinging insects are common, be sure to take insect repellent along with you. Also, if you have a known insect allergy, make sure your emergency medication is packed and readily available.

Dehydration

If you’re not adequately hydrated during your walk, dehydration can quickly turn into a life-threatening issue when you ignore the symptoms. Some early symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, an increased thirst, and fatigue. 

A person suffering from severe dehydration may experience an inability to stand or walk due to dizziness, a drop in blood pressure, seizures and even coma. Make sure to bring plenty of water during your trip, as well as a hat and properly ventilated clothing in hotter climates. Children should be closely monitored for symptoms of dehydration because they are more susceptible to its effects.

While walking isn't a particularly dangerous hobby, it isn’t without risk. One of the best things you can do to minimize the risks during a walk is to prepare ahead of time. It's also a good idea to walk with a friend. Any of these or another hiking injury could go from inconvenience to incapacitating if you wind up alone and away from civilization.

And speaking of not walking alone, next we'll be talking about how to get the family involved in walking. 

Monday, 4 June 2018

Benefits of walking with others

For many people, walking is both a fun and relaxing way to burn calories and get their heart pumping. Even better, you don’t have to work out alone... unless you want to. The fact is, walking with a group comes with added benefits. Walking groups are more popular than ever before. Here are just a few of the reasons why.

They Keep You Going

When you walk with a group, as opposed to by yourself, you better commit to adhering to an established routine. If it’s just you, it’s easy to cancel your weekly walk or hike and no one will be the wiser. But, when a group of friends is involved, they help to keep you motivated. Once your friends and family become part of your walking routine, they typically provide encouragement when it comes to setting and reaching fitness goals.

They Make Things Fun

Walking or hiking consistently becomes tedious for some people. But, walking with a group brings forward the opportunity for new conversation each time you meet, which keeps things fun and engaging. When you chat, laugh and have a good time while you walk, you’ll generally feel much better once you're back home. 

Not only that, but walking with friends, family or new acquaintances builds a stronger relationship between everyone who participates. Friends may also have something interesting to contribute to the group, such as a new hiking route or fresh ideas for healthy snacks on-the-go.

They Make You Feel Better

A walking group provides support and entertainment. In addition, routine interaction with friends can help soothe depression or anxiety. Walking (and exercise in general) is already a therapeutic experience. 

When you exercise your body releases endorphins, which cause feelings of happiness and excitement. But, when you walk with a group, you also get to experience positive conversations and interactions which can boost your confidence, mood and self-esteem.

You Get Quality Time

Going on walks with your friends and family strengthens the bond between one another. It’s hard to be involved in each other’s lives when we’re so distracted with our work, school and technology. Providing an outlet to freely communicate without distractions is an easy way to catch up with what’s going on in each other’s lives, as well as encouraging more conversation in the future.

These walks don't need to be long and time-consuming, by any means. Even walking for 20 to 30 minutes, two or three times a week, is beneficial. It's healthy for your mind, body and spirit. If you get your children involved at an early age, they'll be much more inclined to incorporate a walking regimen into their daily routine as they get older.      

Whether it’s friends, family or people you've recently met, bringing along company when you go for a walk goes a long way toward making your trip more entertaining and therapeutic. If you currently don’t know anyone who's willing to join you, look into local walking groups either online or at your local gym.

Up next, we'll be talking about a few issues you may face when walking and how to avoid them.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Walking Ecourse --- Five great American hikes

When it comes to hiking, location sets the tone of the whole experience. Whether it’s through mountains, deserts or forests, exotic trails and breathtaking scenery turn a good hike into an experience that stays with you indefinitely. These five hikes, from across the U.S., all offer adventure for novice hikers and experienced enthusiasts alike.



1. Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is a massive 2,659-mile horse and hiking trail, spanning from the Canadian border in northern Washington all the way down to the Mexican border near Campo, California. 

Die-hard enthusiasts determined to hike the entire trail end up passing through seven national parks and 25 national forests. Throughout the course of the impressive trail, visitors pass through nearly every kind of terrain the U.S. has to offer, from mammoth redwood forests to expansive desert flats.

2. John Muir Trail

Named to honor author and naturalist John Muir, this long-distance trail starts in iconic Yosemite National Park and winds south along the backbone of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, before ending up at Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park. 

Some of the trails can be a bit tricky to navigate, but the 21-mile path offers more than its fair share of views of majestic mountains across the many clear, reflective lakes that dot the region. 

If you're in need of a little assistance carrying your supplies or a bit of company on your trip, you can even rent a pack llama from one of the llama ranches catering to hikers in the Sierra Nevada area.

3. Angels Landing

Located in Zion National Park in Utah is a 1,488-foot rock formation appropriately dubbed Angels Landing. With one of the most stunning views in the West, the difficult trek is not for the faint of heart. However, it's worth the trip for hiking and rock climbing enthusiasts. 

The trail follows the Virgin River and ascends into a zigzag formation called “Walter’s Wiggles.” Due to the steepness and height of the trail, chains are embedded in the rock (for the last half-mile) as an added safety measure.      

4. State Highway 185

Highway 185, better known as the Mackinac Island Loop, is the only highway in the U.S. where motor vehicles are prohibited. In fact, there isn't a single car on the entire island. Ways of travel on Mackinac Island include hiking, cycling and horse-drawn carriages, and it’s no wonder why.

There are several scenic hiking and cycling routes leading into the densely forested land, as well as beautiful views of Lake Huron surrounding the entire island. With a state park encompassing over 80 percent of the land, Mackinac Island perfectly encapsulates the natural beauty Michigan has to offer.

5. North Kaibab Trail

The only maintained trail descending down the Grand Canyon’s north rim, the North Kaibab Trail is a challenging yet rewarding trail, allowing hikers to experience numerous types of trails and ecosystems. 

The trail is well maintained. However, it's fairly difficult right from the start. Less avid hikers might want to check out the gentler trails along the South Rim. But, those who brave the switchbacks cut into half-tunnels in the cliff face will be rewarded with magnificent views of the lush vegetation and rock walls from the bottom of the canyon.

These great trails are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the wealth of scenic locations America has to offer. Check your state’s website for a listing of parks and nature preserves in your area. Or research one of these great American hikes today. There really is no better time to start planning an unforgettable walking adventure.

Next time we'll talk about the benefits of walking with others. 

Monday, 28 May 2018

Walking while you work

More and more individuals are taking the initiative to walk extra distances at work, in effort to get healthier. Depending on your job description and the location of your workplace, it may be easier to accomplish than you think. The following suggestions are provided to help you get started.

Start with Your Commute

When you’re ready to add walking to your work routine, the best place to start is your morning commute. If parking is available a half-mile or so from your workplace, drive there a little early and walk the rest of the way. If your house is close enough to work, you can even walk the entire distance. Doing this even a couple of times a week lets you get plenty of walking in. That is, as long as you don’t mind getting up a bit earlier. 

Get Up and Stretch

Your muscles need a chance to stretch every now and then, particularly when you spend hours a day working at a desk. Every hour or so, go grab some coffee, take a trip around the room or stroll around your office building, for at least five minutes. Not only does this help keep your body active, but stepping away from your work periodically can also stop you from feeling bored or fatigued before the end of the day. 

Form a Walking Group

You may be able to find a few co-workers who are interested in doing a bit of walking with you. Asking around at lunch and breaks or posting a notice in a cafeteria or break room, are all great ways to find potential walking buddies. Walking with a group of people makes exercise a much more social (and less tedious) experience, and also helps to encourage you to stick to your routine. 

Store Fitness Gear at Work

If you want to take your workplace workout to the next level, you may want to consider keeping some fitness gear at work. One essential and easy to store piece of gear is a good pair of running shoes, so you have comfortable shoes for walking during breaks. A small set of weights is also a smart idea, both to hold while walking and to curl during time on the phone. 

Consider a Treadmill Desk

For hardcore fitness enthusiasts, treadmill desks are a growing trend that allow you to walk while working on a computer or going over paperwork. These treadmills have a workstation built in that keeps your computer right at your fingertips during your walk. 

Because your attention will be shifted away from the machine and onto your work, these treadmills tend to have more safety features than traditional treadmills do, such as a low maximum speed and motion indicator bars painted onto the belt. 

If you've never thought about incorporating some kind of walking routine into your workday, why not give it a try? Start out small and work your way up, if you feel more comfortable that way. Remember, every step you take leads to a healthier you!