Florida Retirement FitnessOne of the best things about Florida retirement is being able to exercise outside all year round, and walking is one of the best ways to stay fit at any age.

The benefits of a daily brisk walk include:

• Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight

• Preventing or maintaining various medical conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes

• Maintaining and improving balance, coordination and bone strength

• Keeping a positive attitude and general outlook on life

If you’re not already a regular walker, here’s how to get started making walking a daily part of your Florida retirement lifestyle:

• Get the right equipment. Good walking shoes are the only equipment you really need, and they’re a worthwhile investment. Your shoes should have proper arch support, a firm heel and thick, flexible soles to cushion your feet and absorb shock. Your clothing just needs to be comfortable. You may want to wear a hat for sun protection. If you’re walking outside in the dark or even at dawn or dusk, wear white or bright colors, a reflective vest, or a clip-on flashing light for visibility.

• Choose your course. Take a familiar route. Let someone at home know where you’ll be and when you should return.

• Warm up and cool down. Walk slowly for the first five or ten minutes, then increase your pace to a brisk level that will get your heart rate up. Then walk slowly for the last five or ten minutes to help your muscles cool down.

• Relax and keep your head up. Look forward, not at the ground. Stay loose, not tense – but remember that a little arm-pumping can help your cardio efforts.

• Stretch. After you’ve cooled down, do some gentle muscle stretches.