Walk for Fitness: Before, During, and After
Walking for exercise is easy, cheap, and can be done anywhere at any time. Although it's a natural activity that everybody does at some point, don't discount walking's cardio benefits. Prepare and fuel yourself for that walk just as you would if you were going for a bike ride or a run.
Before Your Walk
Skipping breakfast seems to be a national pastime, but it's important to have some food in your stomach if you're going to do anything that raises your heart rate. Ideally, you should eat a moderate breakfast an hour or two before a strenuous workout. A bowl of oatmeal with a banana is a great choice. This gives your blood sugar, which may be low in the morning, a chance to stabilize and to prevent fatigue and dizziness when walking. If you're short on time or you find the idea unappealing, at least have a sports drink or something small, such as whole-grain toast or an energy bar. And drink a glass or two of water to hydrate yourself. Need your coffee fix? Go right ahead and have a cup. Just remember that coffee can sometimes cause stomach trouble, so make sure there's a restroom somewhere along your route.
During Your Walk
Don't make the mistake of forgetting to hydrate. If you're out on a hot day or walking long distance, you'll need to replenish any fluids you'll lose from sweating. Carry a portable water bottle with you or, if you prefer to be hands free, invest in a running belt that has pouches for water. Remember that the bigger you are and the hotter the weather is, the more water you need. Generally, water is fine if you're exercising for an hour or less. If you're embarking on a genuine hike, complete with hills and significant mileage, take along a sports drink to provide carbs and help maintain your electrolyte balance. A snack in this situation, such as a banana or string cheese, is also a good idea.
After Your Walk
If your walk was strenuous, make sure your muscles recover by having a snack or meal that contains protein and carbohydrates. The sooner you eat after your walk, the better. Good choices include fruit and yogurt, peanut butter on crackers, dried fruit, lean meat such as turkey, or a salad with protein. If you aren't interested in food post-exercise, have a sports drink to provide the necessary fuel.