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Once you've built up some leg strength, you'll be ready to tackle even more challenging walks.
Walking is the ultimate exercise for beginners: You don't need any specialized skills or equipment to get it done, but it's still challenging enough to build cardiovascular fitness. Walking can also help you strengthen your legs -- although in order to keep making those gains, you must gradually increase the intensity or duration of your walks.
Practice Makes Stronger
Your body only adapts -- that is, builds strength, endurance, speed, agility or some combination thereof -- when presented with a new challenge. So if you're new to working out, walking is definitely enough to help you build strong legs. But once you've been walking for a while -- or if you're already in very good shape -- that basic walk won't challenge your legs enough to make them any stronger. If you want to keep making progress, you're going to have to take longer or more difficult walks.
Turn Up the Intensity
Once you're ready for more difficult walks, you have three options: Walk faster, go for longer walks or walk on more challenging terrain; for example, walking hills, walking up stairs, or hiking on uneven terrain. Also, if you want to get better at walking in a certain type of terrain -- say, up steep hills -- you're going to have to work up to practicing on that same type of terrain.
Other Benefits of Walking
Strong legs aren't the only benefit you'll get from regular walking. You'll be able to look forward to increased mood, less stress, more cardiovascular endurance, reduced risk of some cardiovascular diseases and maybe even some weight loss, depending on your diet and how much you walk. Walking is also a healthy opportunity to socialize with friends; it's challenging enough to benefit you, but still easy enough that you can talk as you walk.
What You Need
The only equipment you need to get started walking is a sturdy pair of shoes and appropriate clothing for whatever weather you can expect to encounter. If you're walking near traffic in the dark -- or even during the day -- a reflective vest or jacket helps make you more visible to vehicles.
Ways to Get Walking
If you're really pressed for time, consider walking during your lunch hour at work; you might even be able to recruit coworkers to join you. Or, if you commute to work via mass transit, get your exercise by walking to a more distant stop to get on the bus or train, or getting off at an early stop so you have to walk the rest of the way. If you have a little more time on your hands, you have a myriad of opportunities to choose from: For example, guided hikes at nature centers; community walks -- sometimes called volksmarches; or walking a 5k race.
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