Start a walking routine this summer

Start a walking routine this summer

Even though 2014 is almost at the halfway point, it's not too late to make good on those New Year's resolutions to become more physically active. In fact, as the weather warms up, now may be the perfect time to take up an exercise regimen that allows you to take advantage of the inviting sunshine. But which activity will work best for you? If you're someone who enjoys soaking up the sights outdoors while breathing the fresh air, walking is a great place to start.

According to the American Heart Association, regular walking routines can improve cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, increase energy levels and support weight management. While a fish oil supplement can provide a boost to all these efforts, consuming this nutrient needs to be considered one part of a larger, multi-faceted strategy to better health.

Be sure to start small
It's so easy to take walking for granted that you may not realize there is at least some preparation that is needed. First, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor to decide what an appropriate level of physical activity is.

Once you get the O.K. for walking, you need to make sure you're wearing comfortable clothing and footwear. For the former, be sure to dress in a single layer of loose clothing. When it comes to the shoes, there should be at least half an inch of wiggle room between the longest toe and the end of the shoe.

Just because you commit yourself to walking doesn't mean you have to go 10 miles a day right away. The best thing to do may be to start walking five to 10 minutes a day, then increase the length or distance of the walk by 10 to 20 percent each week. This will acclimate your body to the activity and go easy on the joints. To make sure you don't get winded, try not to focus too much on your speed.

To maximize comfort in the long run, maintain good posture by keeping your head lifted, shoulders relaxed and abdomen sucked in. Even though using weights is tempting, try not to use them because they may add stress on the arms. When you're done walking, perform stretching exercises for your hamstrings, calves, shoulders, back and chest, which will help them stay limber.

When walking in the summer, it's important to keep from getting dehydrated. Try not to exercise outdoors between noon and 3 p.m., and drink water before, during and after your walk.