There is so much talk about levels of exercise people should take that it can all become a bit confusing. But one activity that everyone agrees is good for all ages is walking. Naturally striding out gets the body working and also brings about a sense of well being; and the best way to do this is out of doors. Watching the changing countryside, seeing the views, experiencing the scents, feeling the air on one’s face and taking in gulps of the fresh air is so much better than plodding away on the black base of a walking machine in a gym or in your garage.
But now winter is here it is not only more difficult to find the enthusiasm to go for that winter walk, but it is also more dangerous. Walking in dark conditions, slipping on wet or icy surfaces, over chilling the face and ears, there are a few aspects that need to be considered when going for that healthy walk in the depths of winter.
The first thing to consider is clothing. The weather may seem very chilly when you set off, so you rug up well with thick sweaters and a jacket. But of course as you exercise, your body temperature will lift, so ensure that instead of thick clothes, you wear lots of layers instead. An outside jacket and a warm fleece over a shirt or even thermals can work well as you can remove layers as you heat up.
Don’t let the threat of rain stop you. Obviously you won’t want to go out in a raging blizzard or vigorous downpour, but be prepared to be caught out in the odd shower or two with outerwear that is water resistant and includes a hood. A tracksuit top might look more sporty, and the odd soaking might not be too bad in summer, but in cold winter weather it really isn’t worth the risk of getting wet. Water resistant jackets allow the body heat to escape while still protecting you; waterproof clothing is not so suitable as it won’t allow any heat to escape and this can lead to overheating.
Footwear is important of course, you really don’t want to risk any moisture creeping in from sudden winter showers and you also need good grip against damp surfaces and even ice. Cheap trainers are not really up to the vigour of winter walking; making a small investment in protective footwear can add a high level of comfort and make a walk so much more enjoyable. Hiking books can work better than walking boots, especially over rougher ground. Size is important as you may well want to wear heavier socks in winter time - a thin sock liner with a heavier sock on top works very well - and you may need to go up half a size for winter walking.
Hats and gloves are obvious items for winter walking and also carrying your mobile and even a torch makes sense.
One good tip for winter walking is to use a pedometer. In the summer, when the foliage is out and the birds are singing, walking can be a joy. On a grey dull day it can easily become a real chore so using a pedometer to ensure you cover the distance you want makes sense and it can encourage you to keep going at a good pace.
The route is important in winter and may have to be changed from a regular summer walk because of vision. In summer you can walk happily down small lanes and go across roads because good visibility helps you to see and be seen. In gloomy winter weather, it can be risky going down lanes without a pavement. Investing in a fluorescent jacket might be a good idea to help keep you visible and the cost is minimal compared with your safety.
Carrying your mobile in your pocket is a good idea of course. Walking to music or the spoken word on an ipod is a great way to pass any boredom you might feel walking through winter gloom, but do bear in mind the danger from not being able to hear oncoming traffic or bicycles.
Most preparation for walking is of course just common sense; but giving a little extra thought to it all before you shut the door and stride out can make things safer and more enjoyable.
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