A pedometer is a device that tracks how many steps you have walked. It is typically worn on the ankle or the wrist, although some devices are attached to the hip. A pedometer doesn’t have to be expensive, with many functional models retailing at less than $20, although sophisticated models can range all the way up to hundreds of dollars. Smart phones often have free apps worth looking at and usually you can find a really good pedometer app available to download for free. So try a few out until you find the one you really like.
It may be worth your while investing in a model that also tracks calorie expenditure and heart rate, although expect a degree of inaccuracy on the calorie count due the wide range of variables not accounted for (such as weight, gender, age, height, etc.).
Pedometers work by tracking the electronic pulses created by your movement when you walk. It’s important to accurately input the length your typical step in, because this will influence the step count as well as other factors such as calorie count. It is important to refer to your device instructions here because some devices can use different terminology (such as stride instead of step) which can mislead you. When you have accurately established your step distance your pedometer will be able to estimate your total distance walked by multiplying your total steps by your step distance.
If you are walking for fitness, keep a log of the amount of steps and total distance you walk in each session in an excel spreadsheet or even in a notepad. This allows you to know just how far you have walked, so you can increment and adjust your walking patterns in a systematic way.
For many fitness walkers, an increase of 500 steps per week until they have reached a target step goal is a manageable increase to their overall amount of walking. Establishing a goal in terms of steps instead of total distance can be useful as it helps personalize the amount of effort to the effort required by your height.
A popular step goal is 10,000 steps per day, which equates to approximately 5 miles. Of course this is a generic goal and should be adjusted especially for the old or infirm.
You can also use a pedometer to track the total amount of steps you have walked during an entire day by wearing the device from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep. This is helpful for several reasons. It gives you a baseline for the amount of exercise which you do every day without realizing, which may be more or less than you expect.
It also helps you incorporate small changes into your lifestyle to increase this count. Walking to work instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from your workplace and walking the remaining distance and numerous other small adjustments can increase your walking distance by a surprising amount.
Walking & Clothing
It’s important to wear shoes that are comfortable and do not cause blisters when worn for longer durations. Shoes should also support your ankle and the sole of your foot, preventing minor injuries and strains. With that being said there is little need to buy and wear a pair of ‘walking shoes’ – any well-fitting, decent quality shoe should do.
You should also wear loose and comfortable clothes that allow you to move more freely and in a relaxed fashion. Tight clothes will cause sores when worn over long periods of time and may contribute to sweating and heat tiredness.
For especially long walks, consider taking sunglass with you as well as a sunhat and perhaps a spare shirt if you suspect that you may sweat extensively.
For longer walks, you may want to bring a backpack with you. This ensures you have enough space for your drinks and snacks, but also important accessories such as sun cream, sun-glass, medications, and your wallet and so on.
Choosing the right backpack is important. Too large and the backpack becomes too bothersome, too small and there isn’t enough space. For the purpose of our fitness walking, you should prefer slightly smaller bags as you only need significant space for water, with all the other items included being rather small.
The distribution of weight is also a factor, with single-strap over the shoulder bags leading to back strain. Favor backpacks with two over the shoulder straps, but also connectors that bring around the chest and waist. This provides the optimal way to support the load and prevent any strain and aches. Backpacks with padded shoulder straps will help prevent the strap from digging into the shoulder and causing discomfort. It also helps distribute and balance the weight more evenly.
Also consider your weight. You should be able to adjust the straps on your backpack so that the straps and shoulder pads are in a comfortable position. Even if your backpack is of a good size and has all the right features, it is less useful if those features don’t fit you.
Although the frequent call to prevent injury throughout this guide might seem rather excessive, it is important to realize just how easy it is for your body to become worn down over several weeks if precautions are not taken. You are unlikely to feel aches and strains during a single walk or shorts walks, but after hundreds of miles over numerous days and weeks, little strains and unnecessary burdens take their toll.
Ideally your backpack will also have a few external pockets that are easy to reach where you can store important accessible items such as water and snacks. If you have to stop, unzip and rummage through your backpack every time you want a drink or a bite to eat, it is easy to become a little frustrated with the effort. This can prevent some people from drinking enough water, leading to dehydration and the previously mentioned symptoms.
Some walkers even choose backpacks that have designated sections for large plastic filled bags of water and detachable straws that allow them to drink directly out of the bag. This might be a little over-the-top, but it is a fun possibility.
When choosing a backpack favor lightweight but sturdy materials over heavier and weaker materials. Leather bags and backpacks might be more fashionable, but all that extra weight will not be worth the style points.
A small portion of walkers chose to wear weighted backpacks to try and increase their calorie expenditure, a habit which is called rucking. Rucking is not recommended, however if you must include weights in your walking practice, it is a better choice than using ankle or wrist weights as it produces less strain on the smaller joints and tendons. Naturally if you have back problems, joint problems or muscle ache it is highly important to avoid using weights altogether, rucking or not.
It’s important to invest in quality in regards to your backpack. A cheap backpack will last for a year; a good backpack will last for a lifetime.
Using a Treadmill
If you are self-conscious about fitness walking in public or lack a nearby area to freely walk in, consider investing in a treadmill. Walking on a treadmill provides all the same benefits as walking outdoors. In fact, walking on a treadmill is often better as you gain more precise control over several factors such as your incline and pace. Treadmills also provide fantastic tools to track your distance, heart rate and calorie expenditure. Furthermore they also tend to be a little easier on the joints and bones, at least compared to walking over concrete and asphalt in urban environments.
If you are interested in owning a treadmill, there are a few facts you need to consider. The first is price. It can be tempting to try and get the cheapest treadmill possible, but as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. This is especially true for manual treadmills, which can be harder to use, less efficient and more prone to breaking.
Favor purchasing an electrical treadmill, preferably a DC treadmill. Electric treadmills can be AC or DC, but the former uses more electricity and produces more noise. Watch out for the quality of the belt that you run upon – thicker belters will endure for longer and tend to retain their shape whilst others deform. Similarly, higher quality belts also tend to be better at absorbing the impact of your walking, reducing strain on joints, tendons and bones. Of course, expect to pay more for these increases in belt thickness and quality.
Also be savvy and consider the size. Treadmills can be quite large, so it’s important to accurately measure out the space you have available before committing to a purchase. Far too many people buy exercise equipment with the best intentions only to realize post-purchase that they do not have enough room or enjoy a more open feel to their household and therefore relegate the treadmill to the garage.
Larger sized treadmills can also be easier to use as they accommodate a wider gait as well as wider persons – you need to make sure you can comfortably fit inside the treadmill and walk on it freely.
Next, think about what other features you value. Fancy extras like a heart rate monitor, track setting and presets, calorie expenditure and more can be nice, but can also just add to the price without genuinely benefiting the quality of your workout. Generally speaking, practical design benefits are the most important factors – a place to rest a drink for example, hold a sweat towel, rest a TV or place your MP3 are probably all more important than electronic features.
Overall if you are committed to making walking a hobby, be prepared to part with a sizeable chunk of your cash to get a high quality treadmill. Expect to pay more than a few hundred dollars; although the higher prices might be intimidating, the cheaper specimens are a lesson in false economy. Of course, research the brand and style of the treadmill you intend to buy in advance as price might be misleading – your retailer might just be selling overpriced units.
That being said walking is a brilliant pastime that can be performed without the need for fancy expensive equipment. We would only recommend purchasing the above as an absolute last resort or if injury restricts you from walking in the great outdoors.