Walking is one of the most popular activities for people beginning an exercise routine, and a big reason why is that you really don’t need a ton of expensive gear to get started. Comfy walking shoes… a safe place to walk, and essentially you are set. However, there are a variety of accessories available that can help keep you safer and more comfortable, and even make your walk more enjoyable.
Be Seen to Stay Safe
We all recognize that drivers may not always be aware of their surroundings. Being seen means you are less likely to be hit by a car. When walking along roadsides, city or country, and if you will be crossing streets, it’s important to wear reflective gear or bright colored clothing. This is especially vital to wear when walking in the early morning hours, at dusk and when night walking.
Reflective gear comes in many forms. Great options include wearing a reflective vest, clothing and hat with reflective trim, as well as shoes with reflective features, belts, and sashes. Bright colors (think neon) are good, but they may not reflect the light in all circumstances, leaving you invisible to drivers until they are too close for comfort.
For maximum visibility, incorporate reflective material on your chest, arms, waist, legs and ankles. Because the lights of vehicles are directed down and out, the reflective gear on the lower part of your body is very effective in making you visible to drivers.
A lightweight flashlight or head lamp are also helpful accessories for walkers. Try to watch 15 feet ahead of you in order to detect tripping hazards. There are also lights that can clip to your hat, belt or other clothing/gear. One that you can adjust to light the area right in front of you, up to 15 feet out, is a good choice.
You may not need a full backpack of gear for your walk around the block, but odds are, you will need to carry something. Keys, driver’s license, money, phone, these things may be necessary to have with you on your walk. One common solution that has been around awhile is the belt with a zippered pouch a.k.a the “fanny pack”. While these used to be seen as more function than fashion, in recent years the design has been perfected for people with active lifestyles for a much better look and fit. Look for similar products in any athletic store.
With the rise of walking and running for fitness, manufacturers have responded to this need with new innovations. You can now also find exercise shorts or tights, socks and shoes that incorporate tiny sealable pouches for small necessities. Hikers may want to invest in a hydration pack which is worn like a back pack and offers multiple pockets and zipped compartments.
Have something (or someone) a little bigger to carry? You can purchase a special pack to carry your infant in while you walk. They typically feature a collar to support the baby’s head, and numerous adjustments to hold the child securely and comfortably as they grow.
Fill ‘er up!
Just because you aren’t running a marathon, doesn’t mean you won’t need to drink water! Proper hydration is vital to the body working properly. Even when performing low impact activities like walking, your body needs to water to function at it’s best. Add in other factors such as heat or humidity, and ensuring that you get enough water is critical to combatting their effects for your health and safety.
There is a vast assortment of hydration accessories available. Even the basic water bottle isn’t so basic anymore. Having a reusable plastic bottle that comes with a hand sleeve so you may release your grip, or those that clip to a belt for hands-free walking are great options. Some water bottles seal and have handles enabling them to double as a hand weight. For longer walks, you may prefer a wearable hydration pack that has a flexible “straw” attached for drinking while you walk.
To determine what is best for you, consider the length of your walk, your personal fitness and health condition as well as the location and weather in which you will be walking. You may need more water for walking 1 mile outside on a hot summer day than you do when walking 2 miles on an indoor, air-conditioned track. You may also want to plan to walk at a park or location where water fountains will be available.
Let the Music play…
Music is a perfect way to make your physical exercise fun! It can also provide an outlet for letting go of mental and emotional stresses with each step. Some types of active wear have small pockets to hold mp3 players and accommodate their wires. There are also wireless headphone and earbud options that work with Bluetooth players and music Apps on phones. Listening to podcasts and audio books while on a walk have also becoming a trend.
Whatever you choose to listen to, remember to keep the volume down enough that you can hear approaching traffic, cyclists or animals. Continue to pay attention to your surroundings. This is NOT the time for noise cancelling headphones.
You may not be in Kansas anymore
When venturing out, it is important to acknowledge that walking may involve taking paths into less populated areas or other situations where a risk to your physical safety may occur. Most of the time, attackers are simply looking for an easy target and with a few precautions, you can increase your safety significantly. Several of these precautions are also helpful in the event you become injured while walking.
Here are a few walking safety tips:
- Walk with a friend – or 2 or 3 (human or canine)
- Be alert. Look around you. Take notice of people. Don’t be immersed in your phone (this is also a tripping hazard!)
- Walk with “purpose”. Maintaining good posture while you walk not only helps your body, it also gives an appearance of confidence.
- Let someone know where you are walking and when. You can utilize apps that track your path as well as alert friends/family of your location.
- Walk on sidewalks or on off-road, multi-use paths when possible.
- Carry a walking stick
- Keep the volume down on your phone or music player device so you can hear potential dangers approaching.
- Carry a whistle. It can help scare off would-be attackers and animals, and call attention to your need for assistance.
- Carry pepper spray or mace.
- If you see something or someone suspicious, cross the street, change your course, whatever you need to do to avoid the situation.
- Take your phone with you, so you can call for help if needed.
Walking can be both fun and rewarding, and having the right gear is an important way to ensure your success! Rain or shine, there are hundreds of options for clothing and accessories to keep you working toward your goals. While this article only focuses on a few, unlike some activities, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to start your walking routine. A few simple accessories may help you stay on course and keep you safe on the roads.
Whether you are walking around your block, through the park, or taking laps in your local rec. center, every step is leading you closer to better health. Grab your gear and Step Forward!
For questions about any physical needs that may hamper your walking program or if you have health concerns, talk to your doctor of chiropractic at your next appointment. If you do not have a chiropractor, you can find a TCA member doctor at www.tnchiro.com/find-a-doctor/.
Boone, Tommy. “Walking Accessories”. 4 December 2007.
Bumgardner, Wendy. “Night Walking Strategies for Safety and Fun”. Updated January 21, 2019.
HowStuffWorks.com. <https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/information/walking-accessories.htm> 2 May 2019
Lindsay, Marc. “5 Safety Tips For Walking at Night”. January 3, 2019. https://blog.myfitnesspal.com/5-safety-tips-for-walking-at-night/