PRO Tips

The best exercise for good health

Walking is one of the simplest ways to keep physically active. You can do it almost anywhere and at any time. Walking is also inexpensive — all you need is a pair of shoes with good support.

The benefits of walking

  • Give you more energy and make you feel good
  • Reduce stress and help you relax
  • Tone your muscles
  • Increase the number of calories burned
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve your stamina and fitness
  • Lower your risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Give you an opportunity to socialize actively with friends and family

Amazing feet

Each of your feet has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments. They carry your weight from place to place — usually without complaint. But a lot of things can go wrong — especially if you don't take care of them. Here's a short list of common foot problems:

  • Bunions — hard, painful bumps on the big toe joint
  • Hammer toes — toes that curl downward into a claw-like position
  • Calluses and corns — thickened skin from friction or pressure
  • Plantar warts — warts on the soles of your feet
  • Fallen arches — also called flat feet

Unfortunately, foot pain can get in the way of healthy activities like walking. Ill-fitting shoes often are the source of the problem. Aging and being overweight also can aggravate sore feet. But you can prevent or treat most causes of foot pain, so you can continue to get the aerobic benefit of walking or jogging.

Preventing foot problems

Here are some ways to prevent foot problems:

  • Shoes — wear comfortable, supportive shoes.
  • Don't walk barefoot — especially in streets and parks where you have an increased risk of stepping on a sharp object.
  • Stand on a rubber mat — if your work requires you to stand on hard surfaces. This will help reduce stress on your feet.
  • Buy new walking shoes often — if you walk or run more than 25 miles per week, buy new shoes every three months. If you run fewer than 25 miles per week, buy new shoes every four to six months. Worn-out shoes may not absorb shock well or provide traction or protection.
  • Reduce risk of injuries — if you sprain your ankle, reduce your risk of re-injury by wrapping your foot or ankle or wearing a supportive brace during activities or exercises where injury is a risk.
  • Wear shoes that fit — don't wear poorly fitting shoes or socks. They can cause blisters.
  • Treat calluses and corns — never cut calluses and corns with a razor or a knife. See your doctor.

The bottom line

If you plan to get into walking, ask your doctor if a daily walking program is right for you — and go easy at first:

  • Get a pair of walking shoes with good support
  • Stretch your foot, ankle, and leg muscles before and after exercise
  • Avoid rapidly increasing the number of miles you walk or run
  • Don't spend too much time walking uphill or on hard surfaces, such as concrete
  • Avoid excessive sprinting — short, rapid bursts of running

Sources: National Institutes of Health