Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Walking – a Simple, Effective, Inexpensive Exercise

Walking Can be Great and Simple Form of Exercise
© Katrena
Looking for a great way to exercise that has the potential to become a long-term healthy habit without a lot of added cost? Walking fits the bill for many people who like to keep exercise simple.

Does Walking Really Work as a Form of Exercise?

Regular aerobic exercise is recommended for nearly everyone of every age and fitness level. The CDC offers exercise guidelines for children, adults, older adults as well as healthy pregnant and postpartum women. Moderate-intensity to vigorous-intensity exercise can provide great results for a person's overall health by decreasing risk factors associated with a sedentary lifestyle, but can walking fit that bill?

In order to reap the best benefits from a walking program, it is important to remember safety measures such as clearing an exercise program through a healthcare provider. Wearing footwear and clothing that allows for safe movement that is appropriate for the environment while ensuring that proper hydration is maintained is also strongly recommended for a safe walking program. Using good posture can also help to achieve better benefits from a walking program. Brisk walking is more likely to increase the heart rate into target zones and tends to result in deeper breathing in which a person may be able to speak in short phrases but would typically be unable to sing while walking.

Multitudes of people use walking as their primary form of aerobic exercise on a daily or almost daily basis. Many people have lost weight and have maintained a healthier weight and fitness level by simply walking. The NIH article "Walking: A Step in the Right Direction" provides detailed information on the health benefits of a walking program with free resources for working toward one's own fitness goals. A few benefits of walking on a regular basis include:
  • Healthier bones
  • Stronger muscles
  • Increased energy
  • Better mood
  • Decreased risk for multiple health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol levels
  • Increased calorie consumption
  • Less potential for injury when compared to some other forms of exercise
It is interesting to note that a CDC study found that moderate-intensity walking was associated with reduced mortality rates in study participants with diabetes while vigorous exercise for those with type 2 diabetes was not as beneficial. Participants in the study cited in the CDC article "Relationship of Walking to Mortality Among U.S. Adults with Diabetes" showed that people with diabetes may decrease their mortality rate by 39% by simply walking briskly two hours per week.

Walking Variations to Fit Different Interests
© Katrena
Walking Programs to Fit Individual Interests

Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercise and does not necessarily require expensive equipment. Those who enjoy exercising outdoors may particularly enjoy walking while watching the beauty of nature throughout the year. Some people find that a brisk stroll during a lunch break at work can help achieve a fitness goal despite a hectic schedule, and walking can be a great way to enjoy a family-friendly exercise program together. If weather conditions are not safe for walking outside, many people find opportunities to walk indoors through the use of indoor tracks, shopping malls, and treadmills. Some gyms may offer use of an indoor track for a free or reduced rate.

Although some might assume that walking would be boring, many discover that walking for exercise allows for quite a variety of styles. Walking programs can easily incorporate a wide variety of moves in addition to simply walking forward at a set pace. A few variations of walking include:
  • Mixing up the speed of steps
  • Changing the length of stride
  • Adding knee lifts with a slower walk
  • Walking sideways
  • Walking backwards
  • Walk up and down hills or steps
  • Walking on toes
  • Walking on heels
  • Planting toe then heel
  • Water walking
  • Choosing a variety of walking environments
  • Trying a treadmill
Those who have a pet dog may enjoy walking with a canine friend, which is great for both the dog and the person. People who enjoy reading may find that they can safely read after mastering a treadmill. Persons who are people-watchers might find mall walking right up their alley. Treadmills enable people of various fitness levels to work out side-by-side while getting an individualized workout. Some enjoy the challenge of interval or circuit training in which they may combine walking with jogging, weight lifting, dancing, swimming, biking, or other forms of exercise.

Those who are focused on a particular walking goal, such as a certain distance, may find it helpful to carry flip cards to keep track of laps, change lanes with each lap, carry a pedometer or stopwatch, or to set the treadmill for the desired goal. Most facilities with tracks post the number of laps that make a mile at their particular facility. People who wish to learn information might place simple phrases on each flip card and focus on memorizing that information as they walk.

Walking Can Help People Reach Fitness Goals
© Katrena
Walk Toward a Fitness Goal...One Step at a Time

Walking can be an effective way to get fit and stay on a regular exercise routine. Walking programs may be very simple, low cost, and may appeal to a wide variety of ages, personalities, and people of different fitness levels. Incorporating a regular walking program may help people to achieve weight and fitness goals and may provide a means to maintain independence and a higher quality of life.

Consult a healthcare provider before starting or changing any fitness routine.

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