The American College of Sports Medicine ranks 50 US metropolitan areas each year to promote healthy lifestyles and healthy city design. The ACSM American Fitness Index™ identifies the healthiest and fittest metro areas in U.S. They are scored based on criteria of personal health indicators and community and environmental indicators. For 2014, the Walk Score was added to the mix, giving a bonus to cities that are more walkable.It's probably no accident that five of these top 10 most fit cities are also among the 10 least dangerous to walkers, while the 10 most dangerous for pedestrians all scored under 50 points on the Fitness Index.
Rank - Metropolitan Area - 2014 Score
2. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota 73.5
3. Portland, Oregon 72.1
4. Denver, Colorado 71.7
5. San Francisco, California 71.0
6. San Jose, California 69.4
7. Seattle, Wash. 69.3
8. San Diego, Calif. 69.2
9. Boston, Mass. 69.1
10. Sacramento, Calif. 66.9
Walking is fantastic. Besides being good cardio exercise, you can chat with friends, explore, get deep into your own thoughts, and stop and smell the roses without guilt. But you may find yourself defending walking. Here are ways walking is better.
- Better than running? Yes!
- Better than biking? Yes!
- Better than sex? Sometimes!
- Better than chocolate?
- Better than sleeping late?
Photo © Juan Silva / Photographer's Choice / Getty
Are expensive running shoes any better than the cheaper models in the same brand? A British study put that to the test. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine tested shoes for cushioning, plantar pressure, and comfort.
They found that the most expensive shoes didn't relieve plantar pressure as well as the low and moderate cost shoes of the same brand. The more expensive shoes didn't provide better cushioning, either. The participants found comfort to be a personal choice and it didn't match up with price or with the other measures.
The shoes used were good running shoes, they weren't the bargain basement $25 a pair kind. But this is further evidence that if you shop at a good running shoe store, you don't have to buy the most expensive pair to get the performance and comfort you need. Their lower-priced models are as apt to be suitable for your walking needs. Shop for fit and comfort.
How to Find the Best Walking Shoes
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner 2007
Study: Richard Clinghan, Graham P Arnold, Tim S Drew, Lynda A Cochrane, Rami J Abboud. "Do you get value for money when you buy an expensive pair of running shoes?" Br J Sports Med 2007;0:1-5. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2007.038844
Are Gatorade and Red Bull finding their way into the hands of your kids and teens? The American Academy of Pediatrics is warning parents to keep the kids away from energy drinks, which contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants.
They also sounded the alarm on sports drinks, which shouldn't be used as regular refreshments or drinks with meals. Parents and kids are confused by labeling and advertising to think these might be healthier alternatives to sodas. The report appeared in the June, 2011 issue of Pediatrics.
- Pediatricians should take an active role in educating parents and children on the difference between sports drinks and energy drinks and their potential health risks.
- Energy drinks should never be used by children or adolescents, due to the potential health risks of the stimulants they contain.
- Carbohydrate-containing sports drinks should also be avoided for routine refreshment, because they can increase the risk of overweight and obesity, as well as dental erosion.
- Sport drinks should only be used for pediatric athletes when they have prolonged, vigorous physical activity and need rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and/or electrolytes in combination with water.
- Water, not sports drinks, should be the principal source of hydration for children and adolescents.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics Press Release "Kids Should Not Consume Energy Drinks and Rarely Need Sports Drinks, Says AAP" May 30, 2011.
The confusion over what to drink and what not to drink when walking and exercising isn't just limited to kids. What should you drink and when?
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
A reader writes to me that she will be walking in a 10K walk that has steep hill climbs and is at high altitude. How should she train?
1. The first step is to train with the basics - working on good walking posture and walking form to open up your chest for the best breathing possible.
2. Next, add hills to your walking workouts. You don't need a big hill. Use hills or segments of hills for an interval walking workout -- climb for a few minutes, then descend, climb again, descend, repeating throughout your workout. Interval training with hills will help develop both the aerobic fitness and muscles you will need for your hilly, high altitude walk.
3. No hills? Use a treadmill with incline for building the uphill muscles. If possible, use a treadmill that also has a decline feature so you are building your downhill muscles as well. Stairs are not a perfect substitute as stair climbing uses a slightly different muscle combination than hill walking.
4. Use good uphill and downhill walking form.
5. A hill workout is considered a hard workout of its own, so it shouldn't be combined with a long workout or done for speed. Go just as fast as you are able to maintain without stopping to catch your breath. Start with 15 to 20 minutes of hill workouts after a warm-up, and build up your time to 30 to 45 minutes.
6. For high altitude events, it is good to work on your aerobic fitness - doing aerobic walking workouts or the anaerobic threshold walking workout twice per week to get used to breathing hard and improving your body's use of oxygen.
7. Then the key is to arrive a week early at altitude so you body can acclimatize to high altitude. If you can't arrive early, then plan on going slower and breathing harder.
More: How to Acclimatize to Altitude
Photo: Wendy walks the Eiger Trail © Wendy Bumgardner 2005
As obesity and inactivity rates for man and beast rise, a new study suggests that encouraging people to walk their dogs could be good for both. The study of over 5900 people found that that the 41% who owned dogs were a third more likely to get the recommended weekly amount of exercise of 150 minutes a week.
That is the level of exercise needed to reduce health risks and avoid weight gain. "There is no magic bullet in getting people to reach those benchmarks," said epidemiologist Mathew Reeves in a press release. "But owning and walking a dog has a measurable impact."
But not all dog owners are walking the dog:
- Only two out of three dog owners walked their dogs for ten minutes at a time.
- Those who walked their dogs spent about an hour more a week in physical activity than dog owners who didn't walk their dogs.
- Less than a third of the dog owners got the recommended 150 minutes a week of walking.
- The odds of a dog owner getting any physical activity during a week were 69% higher than those who don't have a dog.
- Those with big dogs (45 pounds and up) were more likely to walk longer.
- Young people and retired people were more likely to spend time walking the dog than those who were middle-aged.
"Obviously you would expect dog walkers to walk more, but we found people who walked their dog also had higher overall levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activities," said Reeves in a press release. "There appears to be a strong link between owning and walking a dog and achieving higher levels of physical activity, even after accounting for the actual dog walking."
Reeves says that public health campaigns might want to focus on getting dog owners to walk their dogs. This would be good for both the humans and the canines. An estimated 44% of U.S. dogs are overweight or obese. While people have trouble getting motivated for their own health and weight management, they may be inspired to do it for the good of their pet.
Mathew J. Reeves, Ann P. Rafferty, Corinne E. Miller, Sarah K. Lyon-Callo. "The Impact of Dog Walking on Leisure-Time Physical Activity: Results From a Population-Based Survey of Michigan Adults." JPAH Volume 8, Issue 3, March. 436 - 444.
"Dog walkers more likely to reach exercise benchmarks" Michigan State University, March 10, 2011.
Photo © Kevin Shaw
If you bought a pair of Vibram FiveFingers shoes between March 21, 2009 and early 2014, you can file for a refund of up to $94 per pair. No proof of purchase is required for the first two pair, but may be requested. The refunds are part of the settlement of a class action suit alleging that Vibram USA made unsubstantiated health claims about the foot-shaped minimalist shoes.
Further details of how to register for the refund will be available at the web site they agreed to establish, http://fivefingerssettlement.com. That web site is not yet active as of May 8, 2014.
Vibram FiveFingers shoes let you have that barefoot experience while protecting your tootsies from rocks and beer bottle caps and other hazards. Like many minimalist shoes, they allegedly purported to help you develop balance and foot strength, while not providing any arch support, motion control or stability.
We first reported on the FiveFingers fad with a guest review from David Van Veen, who said they changed his life by giving him a whole new reason to go walking.
Review: Vibram FiveFingers Barefoot Shoes
But eventually we also heard from experts and studies that said minimalist and "barefoot" shoes might not have benefit, and might in fact lead some to injury.
Study Says Barefoot Shoes Not a Cure-All
Will Minimalist Shoes Injure You?
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
What do you do when waiting for your flight? You know you will be on a plane, immobile, sometimes for hours. It's been a challenge for me to get in my 10,000 steps per day on a flying day, especially if it's a long flight to Europe.
As an antidote to sitting on the plane, airports are adding marked walking paths in the terminal. Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport debuted their fitness walking trail in May, 2014. The two-mile PHX Fitness Trail walking circuit is inside security in Terminal 4. Their brochure is available at the Terminal 4 information counter or online.
FitPHX Airport Fitness Trail
They also added seven water bottle filling stations to get free chilled, filtered water.
Now all you need is light carry-on baggage or a traveling companion who will guard your gear, because there isn't any carry-on storage in the terminal.
A two-mile walk should take between 30 minutes at a brisk pace to 45 minutes at an easy stroll. That's the minimum recommended exercise per day. You should log between 4000 and 4600 steps in two miles.
Other airports with designated fitness walking paths include:
MSP Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport: 1.4 mile Start! Walking course in Lindbergh Terminal
DWF Dallas - Fort Worth International Airport: 0.7 mile LiveWell Walking Path in Terminal D
BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport Terminal Cardio Trail: Two loops, one kilometer each.
CLE Cleveland Hopkins International Airport: Signs are posted on columns, a total of two miles.
Photo © Walker and Walker / Iconica / Getty Images
Brunch and baubles are all well and good, but many moms would like to spend quality time with their grown children. But let's get out and do something!
6 Ways to Have Active Fun on Mother's Day
Nothing beats enjoying a walk together -- it is the perfect way to spark natural conversation and communication while creating new memories of favorite days together. You can use our Walk Finder to find walking routes and events in your area.
- Garden stroll though a local botanical garden.
- Park stroll
- Woodsy walk through an arboretum or forest park.
- Beach walk
- Join an organized walk in your area, such as one of the free/cheap volkssport walks.
- Make a date to walk a charity walk together, especially if she has a favorite charity that organizes a fundraising walk.
- Register together to train together for a longer walk, such as a 10K or half marathon.
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
As pedometers evolve, they have gotten smart enough for you to carry in your pocket rather than on your waistband. When Omron debuted a new line of tri-axis pedometers, they had researchers test to see how accurate they were in a pocket.
The answer is that they were only slightly less accurate in a pocket than on your waistband, a lanyard around your neck, or on an armband. They tended to count fewer steps than the researchers tallied by a hand count.
The difference was minor, and mostly due to the random movement filter built into the pedometers to eliminate "junk steps." The difference when in a pocket was 7-8% which would be up to 800 steps if you walked 10,000 steps. The difference on your waistband was still around 5%.
I received samples of their tri-axial pedometers to review. My husband adopted the wearing the Omron HJ-321 and it's finally converted him to being a pedometer wearer. It's thin, flat, and the horizontal position on your waistband makes it easier to camouflage. The HJ-321 tracks steps, aerobic steps, calories burned and distance, with a 7-day memory.
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
A shoe odometer keeps record of how many miles you have walked in your shoes. That's important to know for knowing when to replace your shoes. I've never been one to keep a shoe mileage log for each of my walking shoe pairs, so I can only estimate when my shoes are dead by feel and by looking at the wear on the sole. Or, I can try to remember when I started wearing the shoes and replace them after a maximum of six months. That's not overly accurate.
You can track your shoe mileage with a variety of apps, such as Shoedometer for iOS. Many workout apps allow you to tag workouts with which pair of shoes you wore in addition to other details. But, just as with any log, few of us do that consistently.
I just tried out Milestone Pod, which functions as both a shoe odometer and shoe pedometer. You lace it onto your shoe and it automatically tracks the mileage from that day forward without you having to do anything. You can also download the app and view your walking or running workout details (including time, distance, pace, and steps for a workout of six minutes or more).
When Should You Replace Your Walking Shoes?
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner 2013
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
Many walkers like the convenience of using bottled water, and many reuse the water bottles. Is this safe? One study done for a master's thesis suggested chemicals could leach into the water as the bottles got old and exposed to light and heat. But other experts dispute those findings. More: Is it safe to reuse my bottled water bottle?
A Facebook friend resposted a viral warning not to drink bottled water left in the car, as it may leach chemicals. Our Urban Legend Expert David Emery dissects that warning. Should you worry about bottled water left in your car? The FDA says the plastic is safety-rated for expected high temperatures during average transport times. But if you have a bottle that has been in a hot car for months and tastes bad, I'd dump it out unless it is a survival situation.
There is, however, a real risk of slurping a mouthful of germs if you don't clean your water bottle well between each use. It is much harder to clean narrow-necked disposable bottles vs. refillable bottles that usually have a wider neck. But even those don't usually clean well in the dishwaher You may have to resort to the various solutions for cleaning hydration packs.
Our Nutrition Guide says not to feel guilty about buying bottled water, because the bottles use less plastic than soda bottles. If that is the choice you are making, well, OK. But it's still a much bigger environmental impact vs. refilling a bottle. It takes a lot of energy to take them to the recycling center and recycle them into more disposable bottles. Far better to refill!
Photo: © Wendy Bumgardner 2006.
The most dangerous cities for walkers scored five to 10 times more dangerous on the Pedestrian Danger Index, which factors in how many people walk in them as well as the pedestrian fatality rate. If you seek a safe place to walk, you may want to avoid Florida and Texas. Just sayin'
New York City ranked as one of the safest cities for walkers the Dangerous by Design reports. But the Freakonomics podcast The Perfect Crime says that if you want to get away with murder, run down a pedestrian in NYC. Unlike many other jurisdictions, you must be driving drunk when you hit a pedestrian to be charged with anything beyond a traffic ticket in NYC. In five years of 1300 fatal crashes, only 66 drivers were arrested. Yet 25% of the trauma cases at Bellevue Hospital in NYC are pedestrians struck by vehicles, and 67% of them say they were in the crosswalk, crossing with the light.
Pedestrian deaths in the US have fallen from 16,000 per year in the 1920's to 4000 per year, even as the population tripled. But you still have to be careful out there!
Photo © Spencer Platt / Getty Images News
One way to prevent blister formation or to protect sensitive areas that are already showing hot spots is to tape your feet. John Vonhof of the Happy Feet blog is an expert in treating the feet of marathoners and ultra runners. He has the scoop on how and why to tape your feet.
But what kind of tape do you use? In the olden days, people used duct tape. I am leery of duct tape as it is made of whatever leftover fiber is available, so it is a gamble if you happen to be allergic to it. It also is not made for or tested for how the adhesive might affect human skin. But John says folks have used it for years. Happily for me, he also lists the other kinds of tape now available and reviews each tape for taping your feet.
I've been having excellent results in using samples of a golf tape sent to me to review. However, I could never find it online to buy. It works perfectly on my toes and the ball of my foot, but I'll be switching to the Kinesio-Tex tape.
Unfortunately, it's one of those stretches you need to do before or after the walk, because the best piriformis stretches can't be done while walking on a country road -- they need a chair or a clean surface to lie down on.
For stretches you can do on your walk after a warm-up: Warm-up Stretching Routine for Walkers
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
If each American walked for a half hour a day (the recommended minimum for good health) instead of driving, we would save the planet 64 million tons of carbon dioxide, 6.5 million gallons of gas, and incidentally the walkers could lose 13 pounds a year. That's the conclusion of calculations by Paul Higgins in a 2005 paper.
Not too shabby. I'm all for the global warming diet! There are tremendous benefits from becoming more active, especially if in doing so you can leave the car behind once in awhile.
10 Ways to Use Walking to Help the Planet
How to Walk Off Weight
Cotton vs. Technical Polyester Fabric for Walking Clothing
I've always promoted wearing tech shirts, socks, and pants made of polyester high tech fabrics that wick away sweat. Wouldn't cotton be a more environmentally-friendly choice, even if it holds the sweat and makes you uncomfortable?
More: Don't Wear Cotton Socks
"A Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Cotton vs. Polyester Textiles," a Senior Capstone Project study by Olivia McGuigan at James Madison University assessed the environmental and occupational health impacts associated with producing cotton versus polyester textiles. Overall, both cotton and polyester have significant health, water, energy, and climate impacts throughout their life cycles.
That's good news/bad news. The good news is that the polyester performance fabrics aren't hurting the environment worse than cotton. The bad news is that growing, harvesting, and producing fabric from cotton has its own detrimental effects on the environment. Both processes can be improved to reduce their effects.
18th Annual Senior Capstone Project Presentation Symposium, April, 2014.
Higgins, P.A.T. "Exercise based transportation reduces obesity, oil dependence, and carbon emissions." Environmental Conservation. 32(3):197-202. 2005.
Photo © Syda_Productions(Lev Dolgachov) / Depositphotos.com_
What etiquette do you follow for wearing t-shirts you earned at walking/running events? One runners' group had a whole set of rules about when it was cool or gauche to wear their race shirts.
- Don't wear the race shirt for the current race during the actual race -- it's considered bad luck. Plus, you are violating the "nothing new on race day" rule and may discover it isn't the best racing gear.
- Do wear a race shirt from a past year of the race, both while traveling to the race and during the race. You will draw conversation and support from others on the way to the race. During the race everyone will know you have what it takes to finish.
- Do wear your race shirt to work the next workday after the race. I didn't one year as I was going to a training conference, and when I entered the room one of the other attendees (who outranked me at work) was wearing HER finisher shirt for the same marathon. It just isn't the same to say, "me, too."
- Don't wear shirts for events you didn't personally race, unless you are the long-suffering spouse, partner or progeny of the finisher. It's awesome to have little Jill say, "My grandma earned this marathon shirt!"
- Do wear a race shirt you earned as volunteer. All volunteers are heroes, too. Some suffer more standing out in the rain or heat than the actual racers!
- Do wear your race shirt when traveling, to take awesome selfies in front of exotic destinations and send to the race organizers to post on their web sites and social media.
But what about ugly race shirts? And what do you do when it's time to recycle them?
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
Something was nagging me as I drove to the local Hop Hop Half Marathon. I felt pretty good about preparing all of my gear the night before and being ready for race day. I was excited to wear all of my bright, bold and sparkly race gear for this fun Easter-themed half marathon. Last year it was a very sunny (but cold) day on the bike path alongside the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon. This year the weather was a little warmer but overcast, with rain coming by afternoon.
As it turned out, I remembered the sunglasses but forgot to put on sunscreen. In fact, I forgot to put on my usual moisturizer that has SPF 25. I resorted to a tube in my car that outdated a year ago. Lesson learned - put fresh sunscreen in my car!
More: How to Train for a Half Marathon Walk
Everyone wears fun clothes and gear for this race, so here I am from head to toe, linked to my reviews.:
- Bunny ears - I got these at the same race last year and they actually stay on my head and don't give me a headache. Maybe I'm more hare than tortoise?
- RunPhones earband headphones.
- My favorite discontinued cold-weather earwarming hat.
- Marmot ultra lightweight waterproof jacket.
- Not shown - cheap plastic rain poncho, which came into use when we had sideways rain after the first two hours on the course.
- Urban Running Girl running shrug (since my shirt was short-sleeved)
- Short-sleeved tech shirt from last year's Hop Hop Half Marathon
- hipS-sister to carry my camera, snack, etc. Mine has 13.1 on it in rhinestones.
- Sparkle Athletic pull-on sequined skirt
- B-Skinz leggings (review sample provided by manufacturer)
- Balega socks
- Brooks Glycerin neutral cushioned shoes
- Nike+ FuelBand SE
- Fitbit One (review sample provided by manufacturer)
- Milestone Pod (review sample provided by manufacturer)
Results - the leggings worked well even in the rainstorm, so I'm very pleased with that. I posted a good half marathon time, my first complete half marathon at race pace for 2014. I'm happy with all of my bling gear! And I burned off some of the Easter basket treats.
Easter Calorie Calculator: See how far you will need to walk to walk them off!
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
"I'd like to walk, but my feet hurt," is one of the most common things I hear when I tell people about my walking life. April is Foot Health Month. Foot pain comes in several varieties.
Heel pain and pain in the bottom of the foot are very common for both fitness walkers and the general public. Plantar fasciitis is pain in the bottom of your foot caused by inflammation of the fascia that runs from the ball of your foot to the heel. Some causes are overuse while wearing old shoes, overpronation, or overstriding. I once developed it immediately after slipping in mud on a walk through the tulip fields. Plantar fasciitis treatments include rest, icing, self-massage, stretches or wearing a night splint.
Heel spurs are related to plantar fasciitis and can develop in people who have a long bout of plantar fasciitis. It is something seen on x-ray but the pain itself is thought to come from the plantar fasciitis.
My chief form of foot pain comes from the bunion on my left foot. I am very choosy about my footwear, it can't irritate my bunion or I'd be in for weeks of foot pain. Shoes with a too-narrow toe box irritate my bunion. But I've also discovery that socks that fit too snugly can also be the culprit.
I also have flat feet, which aren't a problem unless a shoe has built-in arch support that is too high. But others with flat feet have pain and need help. Our Foot Health Expert has 5 things you can do for flat feet.
I was trying to wear a new shoe model that didn't irritate my bunion, but it had motion control elements that ended up giving me heel pain and knee pain. I'll be off on a new shoe shopping expedition soon.
Photo © Stockbyte / Getty Images
April is Stress Awareness Month. Taxes, allergy season, wondering what will become of your teen when she graduates this summer. There are oodles of things to stress about. Walking is often recommended as a stress-relieving activity. Get up, move, clear your mind. But I come from a family of worriers and I know how to turn even walking into something to worry about.
10 Stress-Causing Worries for Walkers: How many of these do you stress about?
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
Is it time to give your tootsies some air? Many walkers like walking in sandals, and here are my tips on finding the right sandals for walking and hiking. Just as with your fitness walking shoes, you need to find sandals that fit right and give you the level of support and motion control you need. Flimsy sandals or ones that don't bend in the right places are just as bad for your feet as improper walking shoes.
Top Picks for Walking Sandals
I just bought a pair of Cobb Hill RevSoothe sandals (pictured), which have technology provided by New Balance athletic shoes. My feet said "Ahhhhhhhhh" from the moment I put them on, with lightweight cushioning yet good support for walking. Plus, each strap is adjustable and they don't rub me raw. I enjoy wearing sandals that look good at work and while traveling and yet still allow me to get in brisk walking workouts.
I am not a fan of flip flops, particularly designs that don't have a heel strap. But I know many of you live in flip flops. Do your feet a favor and look for ones that provide enough structure and support for good walking.
Healthier Flip Flops - Tips and Picks
Photo courtesy of Pricegrabber
Shorts weather is coming and my legs are not really suitable for public display. Alas, heredity and age have produced a patchwork of spider veins and a rough road of varicose veins. Did all of my walking through the years hurt or help? Dr. David Glass of the New York Vein Center dispels my misconceptions. And I found advice on how to cover up my problems from my fellow experts.
5 Facts You Need to Know About Veins and Exercise
When buying boots I realized that my calves don't fit into many designs. Did walking do that? Is there any way to change that? Hugo Rivera, author of body sculpting books and an ISSA trainer, busts the myths.
Does Walking Give You Big Calves?
Meanwhile, I hear the teen crowd is on a binge of trying to achieve a "thigh gap." What does walking do to your legs?
Could Walking Give You Big Legs?
The bottom line is that walking is good exercise for your health. Burning fat through moderately intense exercise will help your overall appearance and give you long, lean muscle and keep your blood circulating.
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
When I reviewed the Fitbit Flex, I struggled every time to put it on securely. The band clasp has a nub to force through slots in the band, and it was very tough to do one-handed. Unless you are Lady Mary and have a maid dress you in the morning at Downton Abbey, it just wasn't worth the struggle. Now owners of the Flex and Fitbit Force (which has a similar band) are complaining that not only is it tough to close, but they are losing them when they fall off unobserved. I imagine sidewalks littered with flocks of fallen and forgotten Fitbits.
Now an entrepreneur has come up with a stylish solution - the Bitbelt. It's a simple silicone sleeve that you slide over the clasp to keep it secure. You can mix or match colors. They have sizes for the Force and other larger fitness bands and for the Flex and other smaller bands. Review: Bitbelt
Our Heart Disease Expert, Dr. Richard Fogoros, sends this solution that will prevent losing your spendy Fitbit. Head to the hardware store or plumbing store and buy a pack of o-rings. The #41 o-ring is the right size for the Fitbit Force, but you'll need a smaller size for the Fitbit Flex. That should only cost a dollar or two and is cheap insurance for losing a fitness band that costs $99 - $129. Just slip it over the clasp to keep it secured. He says it is comfortable to wear and unobtrusive.
The Misfit Shine sportband solves this problem by having you thread the clasp first through a loop on the other band, so if it comes loose, that loop helps retain it. Fitbit might think about redesigning the band, or at least providing o-rings!
This won't solve the initial problem of not having a Mr. Bates or Mrs. O'Brien to assist you in putting it on in the first place each day. You'll have to figure that part out on your own.
Photo © Dr. Richard Fogoros and Wendy Bumgardner
It's National Walking Day today, April 2, 2014. Time to shake off winter, lace up your walking shoes and get walking. The American Heart Association promotes this day to get you committed to walking for 30 minutes or more each day to reduce your health risks. You may hear of National Walking Day activities in your area or company. You can also join in online at AHA with their National Walking Day Toolkits for individuals and organizations.
For 2014, they encourage you to take a photo of yourself enjoying walking and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #AHALaceUp. You can get tips and encouragement through their AmericanHeart Facebook page.
We have plenty of free walking plans and tools here as well.
Are you ready to shake off winter and enjoy walking outdoors again? You can celebrate Spring with these 10 Spring Walks You Need to Take. I have walking ideas to get you moving wherever you live.
After the long winter, your walking gear probably needs a refresh. What served you well on the treadmill might not work as well outside. Get ready for Spring walking weather with these 10 gear items for Spring walking.
If your feet are itchy for a road trip or vacation, start planning:
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
Dr. D. Casey Kerrigan says the athletic shoe industry has been getting it all wrong for decades. Rather than protecting your muscles and joints from strain, a built-up cushioned heel and arch support contribute to the twisting (torque) of your knee with each step. That in turn can lead to progression of osteoarthritis.
In an article in IEEE "The Race to Build a Better Shoe" (March, 2014) she lays out the evidence and points the way forward for the athletic shoe industry. The article has free access for a short period.
Here are the take-home points I verified with the author.
- The impact force when you strike the ground is likely not the one that leads to more joint injury, yet that is what the cushioning elements of running and walking shoes have been engineered to reduce.
- Walkers experience two major force peaks with each stride, the loading response and terminal stance force peak. These put the most strain on the joints (joint torque) which correlates with vulnerability to injury, especially the knee. Shoe cushioning generally addresses the impact force and not these forces. The cushioning materials themselves need to be developed that can do this. EVA foam used in most shoes won't do it. It has to be a sole that responds differentially side-to-side during a stride. This will take more research and development.
- Any amount of heel height contributes to joint torque, so a minimal-to-zero heel to toe drop is preferred. Shoe manufacturers are responding to this finding and touting their low heel to toe drop.
- Arch support is also a suspect for increasing coronal knee joint torque. Zero arch support might be better to reduce this strain.
- The side-to-side cradle sole shape also increases coronal knee joint torques. But this is built into the construction of almost all athletic shoes. In order to make shoes flat side to side, the entire manufacturing process would need to be re-engineered.
- Coronal knee joint torque can lead to progression of osteoarthritis.
Dr. Kerrigan's OESH shoe lab is working on designs that will address these problems. These may lead to a complete revolution in how running and walking shoes are made. I wore one of their prototypes and reviewed them in 2012. They have now produced lightweight shoes incorporating the features her research showed to be desirable and provided me a pair to review.
Review - OESH La Vida v2.0 Shoes.
Does this mean you should start walking barefoot or switch to minimalist shoes? I would start with the advice I've given for two decades -- choose flat and flexible shoes, especially those that tout their minimal to zero heel-to-toe drop. If you wear heels most of the day, ease into wearing flat athletic shoes to give your muscles and tendons time to adjust. Build up your mileage slowly and steadily.
More: Will Minimalist Shoes Hurt You?
Photo © OESH
D. C. Kerrigan, J. L. Lelas, M. Bryant, J. Boxer, U. Della Croce, and P. O. Riley, "Moderate heeled shoes and knee joint torques relevant to the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis," Arch. Phys. Med. Rehabil., vol. 86, no. 5, pp. 871-875, May 2005.
March 26 is Make Up Your Own Holiday Day. OK, I missed it by a little this year, but I declare TODAY to be Walk Anyway Day. A reader wrote me to say he's going to be walking this weekend even though the forecast is for rain and sleet. He'll walk anyway! He's been recently diagnosed with type II diabetes and knows how important exercise is for controlling blood sugar. He's not going to let a little weather get in his way.
We all have our walking excuses. But make your smile your umbrella and walk anyway!
- Nobody to walk with? Walk anyway. It can be fun to walk alone.
- Feeling blue? Walk anyway. Walking is great for clearing your mind and improving your mood.
- Money woes? Walk anyway. Walking is free or cheap entertainment.
- Crappy weather? Walk anyway. Your body is drip dry and you won't melt in the rain, or you can walk indoors.
- Feeling sick? If your symptoms are all above your neck, that's no excuse, walk anyway.
- Just not motivated? Walk anyway. One step will lead to another. I often fool myself and say I'll just go walk around the block, and soon enough I've logged a mile or two.
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York has battled weight gain most of her life. She recently lost three stone (about 40 pounds) thanks to a diet and exercise regimen that included up to four hours a day of nordic walking - walking with fitness walking poles.
More: Nordic Walking Techniques and Poles
Compared with "normal" walking, walking with fitness walking poles burns up to 40% more calories per mile, plus you tone the upper body and abs while relieving strain on the hips, knees, and ankles. Even better, while burning more calories you feel the same or less exertion.
But you need to use nordic walking or exerstriding techniques properly to get the enhanced calorie burn and benefits. I see many people out walking with poles who are really just using them for stability. That's fine if that's what you want, but if you want to burn more calories, you need to learn the technique.
Step by Step Nordic Walking Technique
Before You Buy Walking Poles
Fergie is looking fantastic. Look at those great calves! Keep on walking, Duchess! Here's more on her transformation via the Daily Mail
Photo © Chris Jackson/Getty Images
What you eat makes a difference, whether you want great sports nutrition or just want to lose weight. As Michael Pollan puts it in the book "In Defense of Food:" Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Spring Diet Clean-up Checklist
- Visit a farmers market or take a small farm tour: See where your food comes from and explore what's available locally. In my area, farmers markets are opening for the season this weekend. Although the pickings will be slim (seedlings are just sprouting) I am excited to get back into the weekly habit of buying fresh local food, plants starts for my garden and flowers to brighten my porch and table. You can search for farmers markets, small farms and events in your area with LocalHarvest.org
- Go Natural with Your Walking Snacks. Make your own trail mix from dried fruit and nuts. If you prefer a packaged bar for convenience, try these natural energy bars that feature short ingredient lists of whole foods rather than highly processed bars full of additives.
- Eat Clean for a Week: Eating clean means eating foods that are as close as possible to their natural state. No added sugar, sodium, fats, artificial colors, flavorings or preservatives. Everything should be minimally processed, using only 100% whole grains. For drinks, stick with water, natural fruit juices and eliminate alcohol.
- Add Super Foods to Your Diet: Foods that are naturally nutrient-dense and oxidant-rich are a great choice, rather than packaged foods that claim to have added them.
- Go Vegetarian for a Day: While I am an omnivore, I could easily go vegan for a week cooking Indian food. If your meals are always meat-centered, break out and try cuisines that offer a wider variety of flavors that are plant-based.
- Start a Food Diary for a reality check: If you log everything you eat, in just a few days you should be able to spot diet saboteurs and less-healthy food you could replace with something better for your body and waistline. Our free online Calorie Count is ideal for keeping a food diary that automatically calculates calories and nutrition and gives you a daily grade. Plus, it suggests tasty but healthier food to eat.
- Walk of Life 10-Week Program: Join my free e-mail course that includes a healthy recipe and healthy eating tip each day, along with walking and exercise lessons and assignments. Walk more, Eat better. Feel fantastic.
- Flush the "Herbal" Diet Pills: If you've been sucked in by ads touting all-natural fat dissolving weight loss pills, the best place for them is the trash. The FDA has a list of 72 weight loss pills that actually contain undeclared substances, including prescription drugs in high concentrations. If the pill worked and was safe, you can bet that "Big Pharma" would be marketing the heck out it - like Viagra! Herbal doesn't mean safe, especially when the vendors are lying about what is in it.
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
A standard outdoors high school track is 1/4 mile in the inner lane, or 440 yards or 400 meters. But a reader likes to walk the outside lane - how far around is that? A quick search found the Track Calculator by the North American Racewalking Foundation. With a couple basic facts you can find out the distance and pace of your laps in any lane.
I see many walkers out walking tracks at their local schools. It can be a safe way to get in your mileage. Restrooms and water fountains are often readily available. You can keep count of your laps. Track walking also is an easy way to do intervals and speed workouts -- speed up to your fastest pace on the straight-aways and then slow to an easy pace on the curved ends.
Photo © Photo and Co/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Time to start thinking about short sleeved tops and shorts. Open up your dresser drawers and check on your stowed-away gear. First, give the armpits a sniff. If they lack "freshness," try my secret recipe for getting body odor out of exercise shirts. Is it time to retire some of the old gear, or just get yourself motivated with some new walking outfits? Here are my choices:
- Women's Warm Weather Walking Tops
- Plus Size Warm Weather Walking Tops
- Women's Walking Shorts
- Plus Size Walking Shorts
I added a new piece to my spring walking wardrobe - a running shrug from Urban Running Girl. It adds long sleeves to any walking outfit and you can easily take it off and tie it around your waist as a belt without the flapping bulk of a jacket or shirt.
Review: Why You Need a Running Shrug
New shoes are a great way to get yourself moving. I got a review sample pair of neon pink/orange Reebok ZQuick shoes and they certainly put some pep in my pace! They have other great colors, such as violet, gray/violet or even basic black.
Review: Reebok ZQuick Shoes
Wondering if you need new shoes? If it's been since summer, you are probably overdue!
Signs Your Shoes are Dead
Photos © Wendy Bumgardner
- Tune-up your walking form
- Tune-up your muscles
- Tune-up your fitness goals
- Tune-up your diet
- Tune-up your walking gear and clothing
And while you're tuning things up, what about your walking tunes? I'm definitely adding some new ones to my playlist, like Pharrell's "Happy"
Photo: © Wendy Bumgardner
Nordic walking uses fitness walking poles to turn your regular walking into a full body workout. It tones your upper body as well as your lower body. As a bonus, you burn more calories per mile yet feel like you are not exerting yourself any more than usual. I enjoy nordic walking as the poles also relieve strain on the hips, knees, and ankles. Plus, walking with poles is fun!
Nordic Walking - Step by Step
Top Picks for Nordic Walking Poles
There are other walking pole techniques. Exerstriding uses the poles in a different way, and can be done with poles that don't have the demi-glove or strap required for the nordic walking technique.
I see many walkers out using poles with more of a hiking pole technique, primarily for stability rather than getting a better walking workout. I use them in that way for walking on natural trails.
Our nordic walking models in the photo have great walking pedigrees. On the left is Pam Granata from Walk About Magazine. Center is Judy Heller, author of our racewalking tutorial and walking coach with Wonders of Walking. On the right is Tyler Burgess, walking coach and walking tour director of Walk-With-Me.
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
If you're seeing green dogs and pink elephants, it may be as dangerous for you to walk home as to drive. St. Patrick's Day is often associated with drinking, and many of you may partake. Forty percent of all pedestrians killed by an automobile collision had been drinking, according to one study. You are less likely to follow common sense pedestrian safety rules after a few drinks. I gave a TV news interview a last year on pedestrian safety, as we had a rash of crashes and tragedies in our local area. Unfortunately, those have continued.
10 Ways to Die When Walking After Dark
Don't be a statistic. If you are going to imbibe and walk, you may need a designated sober walking companion as much as you would want a designated sober driver. If you're celebrating St. Patrick's Day, it's a great excuse to wear flashing lights, reflective gear and bright, light colors so you will be seen if you are crossing the street.
Also think twice about dyeing your pet green for the holiday. Even if you use Kool-Aid or food coloring, you'll attract some haters as well as those who think it's cute. I spied this poodle on a walk last year. I don't endorse doing this, or any pet costuming. None of my pets would have stood still for it. Instead, go green yourself, like these walkers and runners at our local Shamrock Run.
Sparkly and Fun Gear for Races
Photos © Wendy Bumgardner
Personally, I have to eat something in the morning before walking or I get nauseated. What Should You Eat Before a Morning Walk?
It's important for me to get protein with my breakfast. Often that comes in the form of eggs, but I have friends who hate eggs. Also, they take time to cook (and require cooking -- something many of us avoid.)
One simple breakfast is granola mixed with yogurt. I got a sample of the Bear Naked Honey Almond 100% Natural Granola (Compare Prices) to try. I was tempted by it's profile of 10 grams protein, 12 grams carbs, 7 grams fat per 1/4 cup serving. I find that I need protein for breakfast or I bonk. Before my long walks the past three weekends, I mixed it with a natural, unflavored yogurt and a spoonful of homemade jam. It did a good job of fueling me. I didn't need to resort to the granola-and-nut bar I was carrying in case I got hungry on my two-to-three hour walks. I also liked the way it stayed crunchy when mixed with the yogurt.
Christina asked in our Forum, "What's your experiences of walking before breakfast? We've all heard that early morning walking before breakfast are supposed to be more efficient from fat burning point of view, but personally I feel wobbly when walking the first thing I do in the morning. I do try once in a while, but I don't seem to have any stamina whatsoever, and the pace is turtle-ish. 40 minutes after breakfast I'm ready to walk anywhere at a brisk, steady pace!" Discussion: Do you walk before breakfast?
Photo © Bear Naked
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.