Unit 7 – Exercise Essay
The Wonder of Walking
[Q] Have you ever wanted to begin an exercise routine but felt daunted by the task and failed to begin?  Many people appreciate the idea of exercise, yet when it comes to the practice, they fizzle.  In fact, so many people in America are sedentary, it is now considered a national epidemic which has been deemed serious enough to warrant government involvement!  Insistently, schools, churches, social clubs, and gyms vie for the public’s attention as body weight soars amongst the masses. [3sss] Be active! Be healthy! Be confident!  Shouting from the rooftops is no help.  Change must begin from within.  While many people seriously don’t know where to start, fitness walking remains one of the most affordable, least complicated, and benefit-rich activities around.
 Whereas people often think they cannot begin an exercise regimen without a significant investment in equipment, walking is one of the most cost-effective exercises imaginable. Little equipment is necessary for this simple yet sufficient activity.  All that is truly necessary to begin a walking regimen is a quality pair of comfortable shoes, breathable, well-fitting clothing, and a safe area to walk. If hills surround the area where one lives, they provide an excellent benefit to any walking routine for free. The serious fitness walker might choose an appropriate hat to guard his or her face and scalp from the destructive rays of the sun; however, even this problem is easily solved by choosing to walk either early or late in the day to minimize sun exposure.  Listening to the crunching of leaves beneath their feet and the chirping of birds in the trees can be an excellent way to enjoy the beauty of one’s natural surroundings.  Yet others might prefer music. The addition of a quality electronic device, such as an MP3 player, to the equipment list, while not required, might give added bounce to one’s step. The more sophisticated walker might alternatively listen to podcasts or audiobooks which can stretch the intellect as well as the calf muscles.  Despite the many expensive exercise alternatives that abound, pretty much anyone can add fitness walking to their routine for a minimum of start-up costs.
 While anyone from a student to a grandmother can begin a simple walking routine, sometimes a little training can go a long way.  In order to maintain a quality caloric burn, the serious fitness walker will want to find the optimal pace which will keep his or her heart rate elevated.  Heart rates vary significantly.  A training regimen could include learning how to pace oneself at a faster pace on the uphill slopes, while going more slowly on the downhill slopes, in order to keep from tumbling down Jack-and-Jill-fashion. Though many fitness walkers maintain their regimen without any formal training at all, I have personally benefited from the quality instruction I received in my college Fitness Walking classes.  In the first level, we learned such helpful information as optimal nutrition and hydration practices before and after a walk, as well as appropriate shoe and clothing choices.  Additionally, in later classes, we learned how to plan and execute a fitness walking regimen for effective weight loss or management.  Training as I did was helpful, yet the most important thing I gleaned was that talking helps not one bit if you never manage to head outside for an uncomplicated walk.
 As with any new habit, beginning a new exercise regimen is hard work, and often the hardest part remains the first step.  Consequently, many fail before they begin simply for lack of motivation, which leaves them frustrated and defeated. [T] However, one of the greatest benefits to a fitness walking routine is that of an elevated mood and sense of well-being. Once the heart rate is raised and the body begins to sweat, the release of endorphins causes the “exercise high” that is so hard to replicate. Moreover, these endorphins, and the pursuit of that feeling of well-being, begets endurance, which makes the exercise begin to be not only enjoyable but physically challenging as well.  Sometimes, in the excitement of a good workout, a fitness walker can push too hard, too fast, and certain conditions will develop which might hinder future workouts.  Caution must be exercised. Shin-splints, cramps, joint pain, and various other ailments can creep up on a walker who is not being observant about what his or her body is saying.  Forgetting to stretch after a particularly grueling session might result in unwanted muscle soreness and fatigue.  In addition, sun exposure remains a constant threat to the avid outdoor walker. Yet fitness walking remains one of the easiest exercise routines to begin, with very few adverse consequences.
 Although many fitness gurus may suggest that an abundance of specialized equipment is necessary for optimal health, it remains a glaring fact that fitness walking is one of the most inexpensive routines to begin and maintain.  With little to no training, it is accessible to most everyone, though any investment in such training can reap significant dividends toward a successful approach to weight management. And surely, the benefits of a fitness walking routine far outweigh the negative consequences, if care is taken in proper execution.  Significantly, with its mood-boosting benefits as well as the power it provides in weight-management, a fitness walk can be the first step on the road to health and well-being for many people.  Struggling with self-image, sadness, and slavery to laziness, those who dare to begin a regimen will notice its effects almost immediately.  Walking indeed works wonders.