Lose that belly by walking

Walking to work or school is an option for some Vancouver residents who might be uncomfortable riding the buses during flu season. A new book by John Stanton, founder of the Running Room chain of stores, can help show the way.

In Walking: A Complete Guide to Walking for Fitness, Health and Weight Loss (Penguin, $24), Stanton covers everything from correct shoe selection to loosening up, and from the biomechanics of walking to proper nutrition. There’s even a section on monitoring your heart rate. He lists training programs ranging from five kilometres to a marathon.

Stanton was smoking two packs a day in 1981 before he discovered the joy of running and walking, which he calls the most popular form of exercise in North America. He notes that a 160-pound person will burn approximately 100 calories per mile. For beginners, it’s more important to walk longer distances than to build up speed if one of the goals is to lose weight.

“Walking burns fat, rids you of stress, improves your self-esteem and helps you sleep better,” he writes. “Combined with a positive ”˜I can do it attitude’, you soon find your improved sense of empowerment harnessing all your personal, professional and community goals.”

Before beginning a walking program, Stanton recommends assessing your physical readiness. Anyone who ever loses consciousness, felt chest pains in the past month, has bone or joint problems, takes prescription drugs for blood pressure, or has a heart condition should first consult a doctor.

To enhance safety, Stanton recommends noting your name and address, blood type, and a friend’s or relative’s telephone number on the inside sole of your shoe or tied to a lace. He also advises carrying a whistle and a cellphone, and walking against traffic so it’s easier to see approaching automobiles.

For those who are recovering from an injury, Stanton's book includes a section on water workouts. He suggests checking with a doctor before trying to walk in the water. "The resistance of the water will slow your walking action somewhat," he writes, “but in your mind's eye, you should always 'see' yourself walking on dry land."