Your Top 10 Walking Questions, Answered

Q: Should I eat before I walk? 
A: Again, it’s different for everyone. If you’re planning a brisk walk or interval training, it’s best to just eat something small and simple, such as a piece of fruit or some low-fat or fat-free yoghurt. The human body doesn’t like digesting food while exercising hard. That said, a leisurely stroll after a large meal can assist digestion and burn a few extra kilojoules. But walking before a meal works just as well, as long as you don’t have any problems with your blood sugar. If you’re walking first thing in the morning, drink a large glass of water before you head out. Your body may be slightly dehydrated after a night’s sleep. 

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Q: What’s the simplest way to determine how fast I’m walking? 
A: The easiest way to gauge your speed without using a pedometer is to count how many steps you take per minute. The experts use this number to calculate pace, based on an average stride length of just over half a metre. (Stride length is the distance from the heel of one foot to the heel of the other foot when you’re taking a step.)

  • 70 steps per minute equals about 20 minutes per kilometre, or 3 km/h.
  • 105 steps per minute equals about 12 minutes per kilometre, or 5 km/h.
  • 140 steps per minute equals about 10 minutes per kilometre, or 6 km/h.

If you pay attention to your steps, you’ll soon be able to estimate your pace fairly accurately without bothering to count. You’ll just know what a 20-minute kilometre or a 15-minute kilometre feels like. 

Q: How many kilojoules do I burn by walking 1 km? 
A: The average 68-kg woman burns from 200 to 250 kJ (about 50 to 60 cal) per kilometre. However, it depends on a number of factors, including height, weight, fitness level, terrain, clothing and outside temperature. If your goal is to lose weight, forget about the numbers. Instead, develop a healthy eating plan you can live with, and incorporate as much physical activity into your daily routine as possible. Try to walk for at least half an hour every day.

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Q: When should I buy new shoes? 
A: Replace your walking shoes every 6 months or every 1,000 km, whichever comes first. It doesn’t matter if the shoes still look great; they’ve lost a lot of their cushioning by that time.

Q: Help! I’m having pain in the front of my lower legs. What is it? 
A: It sounds like shin splints, a common problem that happens when you push your body too hard too soon. Your shin and calf muscles cramp from overuse and you notice a burning pain in your shins. To avoid shin splints, gradually increase your pace and walking distance, and always take time to warm up properly.

Q: I have heel pain. What should I do? 
A: Heel pain often results from a condition called plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a sheath of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. This tissue can become overstretched and inflamed, producing sharp pain, especially first thing in the morning. The pain eases as you walk around, but it can return, particularly if you sit for long periods. As you get older, your body’s tissues become less pliable—that’s why stretching is so important. Stretch your calf muscles to alleviate heel pain. If that doesn’t work, book an appointment with a podiatrist. You may need better walking shoes or orthotics to keep your ankles from rolling inwards.  

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