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Walking Safety Tips

Make the most of your walks by taking a couple of minutes to prepare. Be sure to bring everything you'll need with you. If you're walking early in the morning, put your clothes out the night before to save time and prevent frustration.

Choose things you can wear in layers. As you get warm, take a layer off. When you cool down, put a layer back on. Simple fabrics like cotton and insulating layers of fleece and wool work fine. If you're buying new, choose clothing that's made of material that wicks sweat away from your body. Wicking materials are sold under many names, but some of the more popular ones include acrylic, ClimaLite, CoolMax, Ingeo, polypropylene, PrimaLoft, Sensura, Thermax, Thorlon and Wonder-Wick.

Check the weather. Light rain or snow shouldn't automatically rule out your exercise, but you need to have a water-resistant barrier between you and the elements. If your clothing gets soaked, it's hard to keep warm.

Wear a hat. In warm climates, it helps protect you from the sun. In cold climates, it stops heat from escaping and can help keep you warm. Bring along sunglasses as well to protect your eyes. As your walking gets more advanced, you'll probably want to use sunglass straps to make sure your glasses stay on and don't keep slipping down your nose.

Instructables.com Sunglass Strap [This is a really cool site. It's called instructables.com and they just show you how to build things. Click Here to learn how to make a SUPER cheap pair of sunglass straps!]

Put on some sunscreen. Whatever is exposed needs to be covered. Don't forget commonly overlooked places like your ears or the back of your neck.

Leave valuables at home. Exercising with a diamond necklace or expensive watch is simply foolish. The only accessories you may need include a pedometer, an inexpensive watch and a cell phone for emergencies. If you're in a new city or going through unfamiliar territory, a global positioning device (GPS) or map is also a reasonable precaution.

Take a bottle of water with you if you're walking for more than 15 minutes. You need to stay hydrated, especially as your walks get more intense.

Bring a friend for encouragement and safety. Tell someone who's not going with you where you're going and how long you'll be gone. At the very least, leave a note for family and loved ones telling them when you left and when they can expect you back. Carry some form of identification along as well in case of an accident or medical problem.

Don't take unnecessary risks. Keep your routes simple the first few weeks until you get to know your body. As your walks get longer, prepare ways to cut the walk short and get home quickly should a problem arise.

When you're on a street without sidewalks or paths, always walk facing the oncoming traffic. Wear clothes that are light-colored and put on a reflective belt or vest so drivers can see you sooner. Never assume drivers will give you the right of way. In any accident between a car and a person, the pedestrian always loses.

When walking on bike paths, keep right. Always make sure there's enough room on your left for joggers, runners or bike riders to pass.

For personal safety, some people carry a walking stick (for protection), whistle (to call for help) or personal alarm. If you've been trained how to use it, mace or pepper spray can slow down both humans and animals. Ultimately you should avoid places where you feel danger or threatened.

Remember your emergency medications. If you're an asthmatic, a rescue inhaler should come with you every time. Heart patients who are required to carry nitroglycerin should make sure their pills are close at hand.

Use personal stereos like an iPod or Walkman with caution. Don't listen to something that might distract you when you're in areas with vehicle traffic. If listening to music prevents you from staying alert and safe, don't do it.

Ultimately no activity is without risk. Just make sure to take steps to minimize your exposure. Next week I'll share walking techniques from the pros.

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