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Walking for Fitness

woman walking on a walking trail in a wooded area

Taking advantage of walking trails in your area is a good way to begin improving your health.

Photo credit: Getty images

Nashville, Ark. –

What is an inexpensive way to improve my health?

The New Year brings a renewed interest in improving our health. One of the best ways you can do that is to get outside and walk. Walking is great because it can be done almost anywhere, requires little to no equipment, doesn’t cost much and is easy to do. Walking can be done in almost any weather; you just need to prepare accordingly.

            Many people take advantage of the trails and places to walk in Howard County. Most every community has walking trails and the city park is a great place to walk! Maybe you have been walking for a while but are not sure if you are getting the most out of your walking routine.

A good walking workout is a matter of stepping up your pace, increasing your distance and walking more often. However, there are some common mistakes to avoid when walking. Make sure you are not guilty of them.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when walking?

  • Overstriding. Overstriding leads to a clumsy, ungainly gait, striking hard with the feet. Your shins hurt and you really don’t go any faster. Concentrate on taking shorter, quicker steps. Then think of really rolling through your step with your back foot and leg, getting a good push off.
  • The Wrong Shoes. Shoes are too heavy or too stiff. The soles don’t bend. Shoes over one year old. Shoes that are not the right size. If this describes your shoes, you are setting yourself up for plantar fasciitis, muscle pulls and knee problems. Get fitted for the right shoes. Choose shoes that are designed for walking or running. Replace them regularly, at least once a year.
  • Flapping, Slapping, “Flat” Feet. This means instead of rolling through the step with your forward foot, it is flattening out prematurely. Either you are fighting stiff, heavy shoes or your shins are too weak to let you roll through each step. Wear flexible shoes that bend at the ball of the foot. Do exercises that help to strengthen your shins, ankles, and lower leg.
  • Look, Ma, No Arms. You keep your arms still at your sides while walking or swing them without bending them. People who do this find their hands swell quite a bit while walking. Be sure to bend your arms 90 degrees and swing them naturally back and forth opposite the leg motion.
  • Chicken Winging and Flinging. You swing your arms from side to side, crossing the center of your body and extending out endangers passersby. Try keeping your elbows close to your body and swing your arms mostly back and forward, naturally. This motion lets you concentrate on power from your rear leg without wasting motion in front of your body.
  • Head Down. You find yourself always looking down, hanging your head and staring at your feet. Look up! Good posture for walking allows you to breathe well and provides a long bodyline to prevent problems with your back, neck, and shoulders.
  • Leaning and Swaying. Leaning forward or backwards or holding your back swayed can all result in back pain. Stand up straight but with relaxed shoulders, chin up and parallel to the ground. Think about walking tall.
  • The Wrong Clothes. You are always wearing too much or not enough. You end up sweaty and clammy in any weather. Not wearing a hat. For walking comfort, dress in layers. Hats are often overlooked. They help to insulate you, so you warm up faster. They shield the top of your head from the sun. They also shield your face from sun exposure.
  • Not Drinking Enough Water. Drink water before, during and after walking. You should drink a glass of water every hour throughout the day to stay hydrated. Ten minutes before your walk, drink a glass of water. During your walk drink a cup or more of water every 20 minutes. After you finish, drink a glass or two of water.
  • You walk and walk and walk. But you have lost your enthusiasm. You feel tired, irritable. You always have aches and pains. You may be overdoing it. Keep in mind that you are striving to reach a goal of two miles/three to five days a week or at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. That’s 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. More than that and you don’t receive any more benefits. Add variety to your walking program. Change where you walk. Don’t walk the same path every time.

How fast should I walk?

To gauge your activity level and make sure you are walking at the correct pace, use the talking test. You should be able to carry on a conversation in a normal voice as opposed to labored breathing and difficulty talking. This is especially true for those just starting out.

Walking is a great way to spend time with your family and friends while social distancing. For more information for improving your overall health, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Avocado Dip Recipe

Looking for a healthy recipe to prepare while watching your favorite sports? Try this one. Howard County 4-H members made this recipe recently. It was enjoyed by all.

Ingredients for sweet potato fries

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Ingredients for Avocado Dip

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese
  • ½ tablespoon jalapeno
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper

Sweet Potato Fries Directions

  1. Wash your hands!
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray if you have it. Set your pan aside.
  3. Peel sweet potatoes. Cut into ¼ to ½ inch thick fries.
  4. Place them on a large bowl and toss or stir with olive oil until the sweet potatoes are coated.
  5. Add paprika, chili powder, coriander, salt, and pepper; toss to distribute evenly.
  6. Arrange coated fries in a single layer on the prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes on the lower rack until the sweet potatoes soften.
  8. Transfer the pan to the upper rack of the oven and bake 10 minutes longer, until the fries are crispy.

Avocado Dip Directions

  1. Prepare avocado and chop.
  2. Chop remaining vegetables.
  3. Place the avocado, mayonnaise, cream cheese, jalapeno, and onions into a blender or small food processor.
  4. Juice the lime and add to blender.
  5. Blend for 1 minute or until you have a smooth paste.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Servings: 4

Nutrition Information per Serving (1/4 of fries, 2 Tablespoons dip):

Calories - 121, Fat-6g, Carbohydrates-17g, Protein, 3g

Print this Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Avocado Dip recipe.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517

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