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Walking 101

A Resource to Help Walkers Attain Their Health and Fitness Objectives

Walking is something that most of us can do and that we take for granted. Yet walking is also an activity that has the potential to keep us healthy, fit, and in physical and mental harmony. Even frail or elderly individuals who can only plod along for a short distance with the aid of a cane or walker can benefit from walking. The same is true of people whose mobility is limited by obesity, diabetes, or other ailments and conditions.

walking 101Walking 101 provides a broad overview of the walking for health universe. It is primarily a resource to help new and accomplished walkers find the kind of information, support, and equipment they require to attain their health and fitness objectives.

If you are seeking in-depth, technical data or expert advice from health professionals and trainers, you should consider browsing the Walking Books Store, Walking CDs Store, or Walking DVDs Store. There you will find a diverse selection of reference and motivational materials that can direct your exercise and health goals. Many find walking DVDs particularly useful for providing structure and motivation to treadmill walking regimens because they teach by simulating workouts with a personal trainer.

For various reasons it is not always possible or desirable to walk outside, so to maintain a regular exercise program utilizing indoor venues such as gyms, malls, or personal treadmills is a viable alternative. Some walkers even choose to walk indoors exclusively. Conversely, certain walkers will either brave the adverse conditions or temporarily eschew walking altogether rather than walk indoors.

walking 101Staying motivated is perhaps the biggest problem some walkers have. A successful approach for many extroverts seems to be combining walking with social interaction. Manifestations of this include walking with family members or friends, mall walking, treadmill or indoor track walking in gyms, and participating in walking club activities.

Studies have shown that people who religiously track their caloric intake and expenditures are more likely to lose weight and keep it off. Walkers with a weight loss agenda often do this by utilizing pedometers and heart rate monitors with advanced features. One approach that is gaining in popularity is using a pedometer to achieve the goal of walking 10,000 steps per day, the number considered necessary for most people to naturally maintain optimum body weight and fitness.

walking 101Health enthusiasts who incorporate walking into their lifestyle often gravitate to Nordic walking and race walking, in part because those activities promote a greater degree of fitness. Nordic walking uses poles that resemble ski poles and the action of planting and pushing down on the poles exercises the upper body muscles. To a lesser degree, race or power walking also exercises the upper body muscles through specific motions of the arms and torso.

Walking, particularly in nature, tends to have an uplifting, therapeutic effect for many people. It offers them an opportunity to reconnect with the environment and recharge their spirit. That phenomenon has been integrated into a variety of walking programs that blend walking with familiar disciplines such as Yoga or Tai Chi or general spirituality.

Henry David Thoreau was the ultimate walking enthusiast. His book Walking, first published in 1862, likely was the catalyst for the widespread and diversified interest in walking that exists today. For your convenience and enjoyment, a portion of his manuscript is posted below.

An excerpt from Henry David Thoreau's Walking

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that.

walking 101I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for SAUNTERING, which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean.

Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels.

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises.

Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return— prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man—then you are ready for a walk.

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new, or rather an old, order—not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or Riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust. The Chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker—not the Knight, but Walker, Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of Church and State and People.

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practiced this noble art; though, to tell the truth, at least if their own assertions are to be received, most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker.

You must be born into the family of the Walkers. Ambulator nascitur, non fit. Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class. No doubt they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a previous state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws.

"When he came to grene wode,
In a mery mornynge,
There he herde the notes small
Of byrdes mery syngynge.

"It is ferre gone, sayd Robyn,
That I was last here;
Me Lyste a lytell for to shote
At the donne dere."

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them—as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

I, who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day without acquiring some rust, and when sometimes I have stolen forth for a walk at the eleventh hour, or four o'clock in the afternoon, too late to redeem the day, when the shades of night were already beginning to be mingled with the daylight, have felt as if I had committed some sin to be atoned for,—I confess that I am astonished at the power of endurance, to say nothing of the moral insensibility, of my neighbors who confine themselves to shops and offices the whole day for weeks and months, aye, and years almost together. I know not what manner of stuff they are of—sitting there now at three o'clock in the afternoon, as if it were three o'clock in the morning. Bonaparte may talk of the three-o'clock-in-the-morning courage, but it is nothing to the courage which can sit down cheerfully at this hour in the afternoon over against one's self whom you have known all the morning, to starve out a garrison to whom you are bound by such strong ties of sympathy. I wonder that about this time, or say between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, too late for the morning papers and too early for the evening ones, there is not a general explosion heard up and down the street, scattering a legion of antiquated and house-bred notions and whims to the four winds for an airing-and so the evil cure itself.

How womankind, who are confined to the house still more than men, stand it I do not know; but I have ground to suspect that most of them do not STAND it at all. When, early in a summer afternoon, we have been shaking the dust of the village from the skirts of our garments, making haste past those houses with purely Doric or Gothic fronts, which have such an air of repose about them, my companion whispers that probably about these times their occupants are all gone to bed. Then it is that I appreciate the beauty and the glory of architecture, which itself never turns in, but forever stands out and erect, keeping watch over the slumberers.

No doubt temperament, and, above all, age, have a good deal to do with it. As a man grows older, his ability to sit still and follow indoor occupations increases. He grows vespertinal in his habits as the evening of life approaches, till at last he comes forth only just before sundown, and gets all the walk that he requires in half an hour.

But the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours—as the Swinging of dumb-bells or chairs; but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day. If you would get exercise, go in search of the springs of life. Think of a man's swinging dumbbells for his health, when those springs are bubbling up in far-off pastures unsought by him!

Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking. When a traveler asked Wordsworth's servant to show him her master's study, she answered, "Here is his library, but his study is out of doors."



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