Walking for exercise is one of the most effective, inexpensive, enjoyable and safest activities you can do to stay healthy. Other than some comfortable footwear, you do not need any special equipment or nine other people to do it.
Walking is so accessible – it can be right outside your front door or on a lunch break at work. You can go to other venues for a change of scenery, none of which adds any cost to the price of beneficial exercise.
And numerous studies demonstrate the enormous benefits of walking to people of all ages. The benefits are physical, mental and emotional.
As a physical exercise, it’s easier on the joints compared to high-impact sports or jogging. The speed is not as important as the duration of the activity. The cardiovascular benefit is most dependent on getting the heart rate up a little, but still in a safe range and sustaining that pace for 15 to 20 minutes. Actually, aerobic exercise can be very effective even in small installments. If you only have 5-10 minutes to walk several times a day, the cumulative benefit is comparable to the same sustained activity for 30 continuous minutes.
Research has shown that Americans walk less than people do in other countries. Studies have also shown that use of a pedometer or other movement-measuring device can be very helpful in measuring and stimulating people to be more active when they pay closer attention to the amount of their daily activity. Inexpensive pedometers ($25-50) or the more expensive motion sensors ($100) are fun tools to measure and track your progress.
The more you walk, the more calories that are burned and the easier it is to maintain weight. Toning the muscles provides overall stamina and significant cardiovascular benefits.
What may surprise some is the appetite suppressant effect of regular exercise. For serious dieters, the more active you are burning calories, the less restrictive with food you need to be. If the feeling of being deprived can be avoided, then staying with your food plan is more likely.
A regimen of regular walking can be a great stress reducer and relaxation tool. As any aerobic exercise burns calories, the increased circulation to the brain helps prevent memory loss, and it relieves physical and emotional tension. With relaxation, we can be more mindful and clear thinking about all things.
Since the evidence is overwhelming that walking helps so many aspects of your health, what are you waiting for? Let’s get moving!
– Dr. Bruce Kaler