Benefits of Walking

 


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Benefits of Walking

Walking seems like an enjoyable activity, but isn’t it too easy an exercise to really provide much benefit in terms of fitness, weight loss, calories burned and general health?

It would seem that way in this age of “No pain, no gain,” “Give 110%,” “Just do it,” and other gung-ho catchphrases. How can something so simple, so easy, so relaxing, and so enjoyable actually be good for you? It doesn’t hurt, there’s no “wall” to hit; in fact it’s actually fun! C’mon, how can walking the dog on a sunny day have any real health benefit?

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.

Health Benefits

Studies show that walking can:

• Reduce risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
• Reduce high cholesterol
• Lower blood pressure
• Reduce risk of colon cancer
• Reduce body fat
• Help control body weight
• Increase bone density and help prevent osteoporosis
• Help with osteoarthritis
• Reduce risk of non-insulin dependent diabetes
• Help with overall flexibility
• Increase mental well being

Sound good? Read on…

Live Longer

Regular participation in physical activity is associated with reduced mortality rates. (US Dept. of Health, 1996). In particular, studies have shown that:

• Fit and active people have approximately half the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to unfit people
• Because the bones are strengthened, fit people are less likely to fall and suffer injuries such as hip fractures
• Fit people are less likely to sustain injury because joints have a better range of movement and muscles are more flexible
• Fit people are less prone to depression and anxiety
• Fit people tend to sleep better
• 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.

Fitness Walking

A question often asked is “How fast should I walk?” The answer appears to be “As fast as you can without losing the ability to hold a conversation”. In other words, walk at a pace that is brisk but does not prevent you from talking to a friend in a normal manner. This is sometimes called the “talk test”.

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!

Weight Loss

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.

Walking one mile (1.6km) will burn up at least 100kcal (420kJ) of energy. Walking two miles (3.2km) a day, three times a week, will help reduce weight by approximately one pound (0.5kg) every three weeks.

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!

Mental Health

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?

Walking and Children

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? A 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.

Benefits of Walking

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