Fitwins Guide for Beginners
Walking is a wonderful form of exercise that is often overlooked in favour of more intense workouts. However, walking offers numerous health benefits. For the most part, it’s low-impact and can be done by people of all ages and fitness levels, which makes it a more inclusive form of exercise than, say, long-distance running or hill-climb cycling. In this guide, we’re going to explore the world of walking for exercise, covering everything from essential gear and clothing to finding the best routes and joining walking groups.
So, if you’re a beginner looking to take up walking as a form of exercise, read on for all the information you need to get started.
The Benefits of Walking
Before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a moment to appreciate the numerous benefits that walking has to offer.
Cardiovascular fitness – Walking helps to improve your heart and lung health, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Muscle strength and endurance – Walking works various muscle groups, helping to improve strength and endurance over time.
Weight management – Walking burns calories and can help with weight management when you combine it with a healthy diet.
Improved mental health – Walking outdoors can help to boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve overall mental well-being.
Low-impact exercise – Walking is a low-impact activity, making it gentle on your joints and is therefore generally suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.
Essential Walking Gear and Clothes
Before you set out on your first walk, it’s important to have the right gear and clothes to ensure you have a comfortable and safe experience. Here are the essentials you’ll need:
A good pair of walking shoes is crucial for providing support, comfort, and protection for your feet. Look for shoes with a sturdy sole, ample cushioning, and good traction to handle various terrains. There is a wide range of walking shoes available, from lightweight and breathable options for casual strolls to more robust and waterproof options for challenging hikes. Whatever your needs, find a shoe that fits well and feels comfortable, because you’re going to be putting some miles in.
When it comes to walking clothes, the key is to choose lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking fabrics such as polyester or merino wool. Avoid cotton, as it takes longer to dry and can cause discomfort when wet.
Base layers – Opt for moisture-wicking base layers to keep you dry and comfortable during your walk.
Mid-layers – Depending on the weather, you may need a fleece or insulated jacket for added warmth.
Outerwear – A waterproof and breathable jacket is essential for protecting you from the elements. In colder conditions, consider insulated outerwear for added warmth.
Sun protection – Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes from the sun. Sunscreen is also a must, even on cloudy days.
Socks – Invest in good-quality, moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry and prevent blisters.
Planning Your Walking Routes
Now that you have the right gear, it’s time to find the perfect walking route. Here are some tips on how to find the best routes for beginners:
Start local – Explore local parks, nature reserves, and trails in your area. These are often well-maintained and offer a variety of walking routes suitable for beginners. You don’t often need to travel far to find a country park or reservoir that offers a circular route of a few miles. Build up your walking legs round these for a few hours on an evening or weekend.
Research online – Websites and apps, such as AllTrails, allow you to search for walking routes based on location, difficulty, and distance.
Use guidebooks and maps – Local bookshops and outdoor stores often carry guidebooks and maps detailing walking routes in your area, with even more great advice for getting the most out of your walking experience.
Join a walking group – Walking groups are a great way to discover new routes, meet like-minded people, and gain valuable tips and advice. Fitwins has a great social media community group with plenty of walking enthusiasts, they may be able to point you in the direction of other groups of like-minded people in your area.
Tips for Walking Safely
Safety should always be a top priority when walking, especially for beginners. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind:
Check the weather – Before heading out, always check the weather forecast to ensure you’re prepared for any sudden changes in conditions.
Start slow: –Gradually build up your walking distance and intensity, allowing your body to adapt to the new form of exercise.
Stay on marked paths – Stick to designated walking routes and avoid venturing off into unknown areas.
Carry a mobile phone – Keep a fully charged mobile phone with you in case of emergencies. Consider investing in a portable charger for longer walks so you’re never caught short.
Tell someone your plans – Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return. This can be helpful in case of an emergency at either end of the relationship.
Carry essential gear – Bring along a small backpack with essential items such as water, snacks, a first aid kit, and a map or compass if you’re proficient with them.
Joining Walking Groups for Beginners
Walking doesn’t have to be a solo venture. It’s a great social activity for people who enjoy the company of new people. Walking groups are an excellent way for beginners to learn more about walking, discover new routes, and meet like-minded individuals.
Websites like Meetup and Walking for Health allow you to search for walking groups in your area. As mentioned, Fitwins also has a great community on Facebook, where some of our dedicated walkers may be able to point you the right direction.
Building Your Walking Fitness
Starting a walking routine can be challenging, especially if you’re new to exercise. Here are some tips for gradually building your walking fitness:
Start with short walks – Begin with short and easy walks, gradually increasing the distance and intensity as you become more comfortable.
Incorporate hills and stairs – Adding elevation to your walks can help to build strength and endurance, preparing you for more challenging routes.
Cross-train – Engaging in other forms of exercise, such as swimming or cycling, can help to improve your overall fitness and make walking easier.
Set goals – Set achievable goals for your walking routine, such as increasing your walking distance or completing a specific route. This can help to keep you motivated and focused.
The UK offers a wealth of walking opportunities for beginners, from scenic coastal paths to stunning countryside trails. Here are some excellent UK-based walks to consider as you become more adventurous as a walking enthusiast:
The South Downs Way, Sussex and Hampshire – This 100-mile route stretches from Winchester to Eastbourne, offering a mix of gentle hills and stunning countryside. The path can be broken down into shorter sections, making it suitable for beginners.
The Cotswold Way, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire – This 102-mile trail showcases the picturesque Cotswold countryside, passing through charming villages, historic sites, and beautiful landscapes. Again, the trail can be enjoyed in shorter sections for a more manageable experience.
Hadrian’s Wall Path, Northumberland – This 84-mile path follows the historic Hadrian’s Wall, offering stunning views and fascinating history. The path is well signposted and can be tackled in shorter sections for beginners.
The Peak District, Derbyshire – The Peak District offers a variety of walking routes suitable for beginners, with gentle hills, stunning views, and beautiful landscapes. Popular options include the Monsal Trail, Dovedale, and Mam Tor.
Walking in Different Seasons
As you become more experienced, you may find yourself walking in various weather conditions and seasons. Here are some tips for walking in different seasons:
Spring and Autumn – These seasons often provide mild temperatures and beautiful scenery, making them ideal for walking. Be sure to dress in layers to accommodate changing weather conditions and carry a waterproof jacket in case of rain.
Summer – Walking in the summer can be enjoyable, but it’s important to take precautions against the sun. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses, and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Winter – Walking in winter can be more challenging due to colder temperatures and potentially slippery conditions. Wear warm, insulated clothing and invest in a pair of waterproof, insulated walking boots for added protection. Consider using trekking poles for extra stability on icy or snowy paths.
Beginners Guide to Hiking vs Walking
As you progress in your walking journey, you may find yourself drawn to more challenging outings, such as hiking. While walking and hiking share similarities, there are some key differences to consider:
Terrain – Hiking generally involves more rugged terrain, such as steep hills, rocky paths, or uneven ground. Walking tends to be on flatter, more even surfaces.
Distance and duration – Hiking often involves longer distances and longer durations than walking, with many hikes taking a full day or more to complete.
Gear – Hiking requires more specialised gear than walking, such as hiking boots, trekking poles, and a larger backpack to carry essential items for longer outings.
Expanding Your Walking Horizons
As your confidence and fitness levels grow, you may wish to explore new walking opportunities, such as long-distance walking, multi-day treks, or even walking holidays. These adventures can provide a fantastic way to explore new destinations, meet new people, and challenge yourself both physically and mentally.
Take on a Virtual Fitness Challenge
One way to add extra motivation to your mission to use walking to get fit is to sign up for a virtual fitness challenge. Fitwins virtual fitness challenges are a monthly activity that see you work towards distance goals whilst walking, running or cycling. You can connect your Strava, Garmin or Fitbit if you use them, or simply use our in-built telematics that will track you with GPS, and see how far you can go.
The further you travel during the month, the further around the exclusively designed routes you will travel on your virtual tour of famous cities and landscapes. Some of these cities and landscapes have included London, Rome, and Lapland. You can take on these challenges for free for personal glory, or you can upgrade to a medal entry, which sees you earn a real, heavyweight medal of achievement, which will be delivered directly to your door.
If you’re keen to get started, simply download the app for free and register for an account. Feel free to join the current challenge for free to see how it works, and when you’re happy you’re going to hit your goals, you can purchase credits to earn real medals.