Walking is probably one of the most underrated forms of exercise. With all the benefits of any other form of cardiovascular exercise, plus a few others thrown in, walking can pave the way to a happier, healthier lifestyle.
Walking is a great form of cardiovascular exercise to get you moving. It’s easy if you’re not used to doing any exercise, is a cheap way of complimenting strength training, and is one of the fastest and easiest ways to burn calories and get fit. Going to the gym is an excellent way to keep active, build strength and battle the dangers of our mostly sedentary lifestyles. But many people lack the motivation or time to go more than once or twice a week. Unfortunately this isn’t going to be enough to meet the government’s guideline for how much exercising we should be doing. Walking is a great way to increase your cardio work and compliment your gym efforts. Regular walking will burn calories and get your heart pumping, leaving you free to focus on other specific fitness and strength goals during your gym visits. And if you walk to the gym and back, even better!
The biggest benefit of walking has to be its simplicity. Let’s face it, walking is easy. Forget the puffing and panting, red face, stitches from running, complicated dance steps, or the pain of boot camp. Walking doesn’t hurt, it’s not scary, and there’s nothing new to learn. Getting your legs moving is an activity that can be enjoyed by any age or ability, and doesn’t put too much strain on any one part of the body. Walking is the most undemanding and uncomplicated forms of exercise.
But just because it’s easy, this does not mean it’s not doing your body any good. The old adage ‘no pain no gain’ is certainly not true in this instance. In addition to the calories expended, walking will provide the same effect on your body as any other type of cardiovascular exercise such as increased heart rate and increased blood circulation, causing the heart to work harder and get stronger. It increases metabolism so all the body’s systems to work faster and better. Walking at a brisk pace on a regular basis has been proven to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma and some cancers. In the words of Hippocrates, “Walking is man’s best medicine”.
In addition to the numerous physical health benefits, a daily walk will do your mental health the world of good. As with any exercise, the feel good hormone, serotonin, is released easing the symptoms of depression and fatigue and relieving stress. Other hormones are also released that will even decrease your appetite; a double whammy for those of us looking to lose a few pounds. A daily walk gives us the opportunity to get out of the house or office, and provides a bit of time for reflection and thinking, something which many of us lack the time for in our busy lifestyles, but can go a long way towards a contented state of mind.
If you’re into numbers and quantifying your efforts, get hold of a pedometer to keep track of how many steps you’re doing each day. On average we walk between 3000 and 4000 steps per day, increase this to 10,000 and you’ll have met the government guidelines for the amount of recommended exercise. Since 1,000 steps is the equivalent of around 10 minutes of brisk walking, those 6000 extra steps needed to meet the guidelines equates to about one hour’s worth of walking. Walking is excellent for weight loss. A person weighing 70kg can burn about 440 calories by walking 10,000 steps. Walking should be of moderate intensity in order to gain the health benefits of a proper cardio work out. This means that you should be walking fast enough to sweat a bit and feel your heart beating faster than usual. A gentle stroll isn’t going to cut it, but even at a good pace it should still be a pleasant experience.
Walking, of course, is free and you can make it as fun or as interesting as you like by varying your route each day. You can also use the opportunity to catch up on an important work topic or learning goal at the same time by listening to a podcast, or simply feed the soul with some music! Considering how easy it is, and free, and there’s no special training or equipment required, it should be pretty easy to fit walking into your life. But if it is proving difficult, try to set aside a regular time every day and make it part of your routine, this will make it much easier to keep up. There are also walking groups that you can join adding a social element to your exercise.
Walking is good for the mind, body and soul, so don’t underestimate the health benefits to be had. Walk for an hour every day for a couple of weeks and you’ll soon find out what it can do for you.
by Jessica Ward
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