THE BENEFITS OF WALKING

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THE BENEFITS OF WALKING

“Of all exercises walking is the best.” 

Thomas Jefferson

Walking and running offer numerous benefits, ranging from increased physical fitness to an enhanced sense of well-being. Because both walking and running can help you develop physical strength, ward off disease and enhance wellness, which option is preferable often comes down to individual preference and fitness level. For example, if you can run for only very short distances, walking might be better because you might be more inclined to participate more frequently and for longer amounts of time. Examining some of the positive results associated with both exercises – or a combination of walking and running – can help you determine which exercise makes sense for your lifestyle.

Good for beginners – If you are new to the world of exercising, walking is the best form. You will not feel the pain of working out, yet lose weight. But do not expect a drastic weight-loss, because walking doesn’t ensure you that.

Improves muscle endurance – Walking is good for your muscles especially because when you are walking, all the muscles in your body contract. You might feel a little pain when you start off because your body is not in the habit of exercising, but keeping up with it will definitely give you results.

Good for cardiovascular health – Those endless hours spent at the gym will drain you for sure, thus if you are looking at an exercise that will take care of your cardiovascular health, walking is ideal.

Brisk walking is considered to be the best form as opposed to walking at a normal pace. However, if your knees don’t permit you to walk fast, walking at a good pace will surely give you the much desired benefits.

Tones your butt and thighs – The ideal way to tone your butts and thighs is by walking as fast as you can. Walking fast will tone your glute muscles. However, if you set a comfortable pace, you will not feel the pressure. Speed up slightly each time you hit a low. During your walks, remember to squeeze your butt to a count of ten.

Increases supply of oxygen to your body – If you have been feeling breathless or have breathing issues, walking should be your motto. Though other forms of exercise also help increase the flow of oxygen in your system, walking does it better. This is because you are out in the fresh air, helps your lungs function smoothly.

Power walking for weight loss – For weight loss, indulge in power walking.   This is a fast-paced walk, which burns the same amount of calories while you are running or jogging. For this, you need to keep a brisk pace at moderate or high intensity.

Does not lead to injury – Since this is a low-impact workout, walking does not pose the same risk of injury as opposed to working out in the gym or running. People of all age groups can walk –in fact; it helps in tissue-cleansing for those in their 50s and above. Walking is also better for the spine than running and it puts less stress on your disc.

What you need to have – A pair of good walking shoes: A pair of good walking shoes is required before you step out. Look out for a low and supportive heel that will help you walk better. Also, choose a shoe that fits properly and be sure that your toe has enough room in the toe box. Loose walking gear: As much important as it is to have a comfortable pair of shoes, the right walking gear is crucial. Wear loose, relaxed clothes that will leave enough room for air to circulate while you are walking.

How much should you be walking? Most people, at times don’t know how much time they should invest in walking and end up either walking too much or too less, thus not reaping any results. According to fitness experts, one should walk for at least 30 minutes, five times a week, if not more.

Walking for different age groups teens and 20s – Since this is the time you can exert yourself the most, an hour-and-a-half of walking will give you the desired results.
Make sure that you are wearing a comfortable pair of walking shoes that will help you walk at a fast pace. Merge your walking with running or jogging in between. People in this age are prone to other habits like high alcohol intake, smoking, low vitamin D and calcium intake, and prolonged inactivity, which can all reduce bone density .

30s AND 40s – This is the time when you need to concentrate on the pace of your walking.
Brisk walk but make sure that you take ample amount of rest in between. Start by walking at a slow pace and then slowly pick up speed. Again slow down for a few minutes and then fasten up again.

An hour of walking should give you the desired results. This is the time when women cope with motherhood and people reach the peak of their career. So walking as a form of exercise is the best.

50s and above – Bone mineral density falls with age. So you need to make sure that you are walking as much as possible so that your joints do not get stiff. Don’t walk for more than half an hour. Make sure that you walk at a comfortable pace and don’t exert yourself too much. Walking in short intervals will also benefit you. If you don’t get tired too easily, try jogging in between your walks. This will increase your metabolism and keep you fit.

Walking as an exercise nourishes the spinal structures and facilitates strong circulation, pumping nutrients into soft tissues and draining toxins. It also increases flexibility and posture -walking along with regular stretching allows greater range of motion, helps prevent awkward movements and susceptibility of future injury.”

The American Heart Association states that walking can reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. It can also alleviate high blood pressure and improve blood sugar levels. Taking a brisk walk every day can contribute to your overall fitness by burning calories, improving muscle strength and tone and working your cardiovascular system. Wellness can be positively affected, since walking releases endorphins that improve your mood and helps increase concentration levels. Because of its low impact, walking is one of the safest forms of physical activity, according to the American Association of Retired Persons, and it may also contribute to helping reduce abdominal fat.

It seems we’ve all been a bit misled during the fitness craze that’s accompanied the baby boom generation into believing that something enjoyable can’t possibly be beneficial. But the facts don’t support that view. There is ample evidence that walking has a multitude of benefits.

Studies show that walking can: (1) Reduce risk of coronary heart disease and stroke; (2) Reduce high cholesterol; (3) Lower blood pressure; (4) Reduce risk of colon cancer; (5) Reduce body fat; (6) Help control body weight; (7) Increase bone density and help prevent osteoporosis; (8) Help with osteoarthritis; (9) Reduce risk of non-insulin dependent diabetes; (9) Help with overall flexibility; and (10) Increase mental well-being.

Regular participation in physical activity is associated with reduced mortality rates. (US Dept. of Health 1996). In particular, studies have shown that: (a) Fit and active people have approximately half the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to unfit people; (b) Because the bones are strengthened, fit people are less likely to fall and suffer injuries such as hip fractures; (c) Fit people are less likely to sustain injury because joints have a better range of movement and muscles are more flexible; (d) Fit people are less prone to depression and anxiety; (e) Fit people tend to sleep better; and (f)   Fit people have better control of body weight.

So in a nutshell, you can increase your chances of living longer by the simple act of walking at least 30 minutes per day.    Walking should be an aerobic exercise. Aerobic means that exercise is carried out at a comfortable pace to ensure that the muscles have sufficient oxygen available. If you are gasping for breath, you are doing anaerobic exercise. Regular aerobic exercise done three times a week for 30 minutes or more will result in increased levels of fitness and aerobic capacity.

An interesting study done at Loughbrough University came up with some very interesting results. The researchers found that walking continuously for 30 minutes 5 days a week provided nearly identical increases in fitness as splitting 30 minutes into three 10-minute walks. More surprising was the finding that the short walkers lost more weight and reported greater decreases in waist circumference than the long walkers!   All of this research seems to point to the fact that getting fit is really very simple and doesn’t require any sort of complicated exercise regimen. Just get out there and walk every day in whatever manner you can manage and you will reap the benefits of walking!

In theory, losing weight is easy. All you have to do is expend more calories than you take in and you will lose weight. In practice, losing weight is difficult. For many the cycle of dieting, losing weight and eventually gaining it back is all too familiar. There are literally thousands of diets to choose from, all of which claim to be THE way to lose weight. You may have tried a few yourself with mixed results.

The problem with diets is that they only focus on half the equation. Of course it’s important to pay attention to what you eat, but this is important for everyone, not just those trying to lose weight. Dieting alone, especially fad diets that contradict common sense and centuries of human nutritional history, will rarely work in the long term. Good diet must be combined with exercise to really be of any value. And walking is the perfect exercise for those wishing to lose weight.

Another benefit of walking is that walking alters your body’s fat metabolism so that fat is burned up instead of sugars. This will help you lose weight. The bottom line if you want to lose weight is: start walking today and walk every day and you WILL lose weight – guaranteed!

Walking affects not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. It has been shown to improve self-esteem, ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improve mood. A gentle walk in the fresh air and sunshine is relaxing and it makes you feel good. What else could
you ask for?

Most recent studies of young people indicate declining participation in physical activity. Only half of 11-16 year olds currently walk for ten minutes a day. Children generally walk much less than they did a decade ago. Childhood obesity is becoming a major health concern in western countries. TV, computers, and video games account for part of the change, but increased parental fear for children’s safety out of doors also plays a large part.

So how do you get children walking? An excellent approach is to make walking part of a fun activity – make the walk a means to an end. If children know that a playground, a swim, or a treat awaits them at the end of a walk, they are more likely to feel positive about it.

It’s important to get children into the habit of walking at an early age. The best way to get them walking is to integrate walking into their lifestyles. For example, rather than driving the kids to school, why not walk them to school? This may be impractical, but even if you can walk once or twice a week or even walk part way and drive the rest, the benefits to your children (and you) will be enormous. Make walking a priority and you and your children will both benefit.

Kathy Kiefer

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