Walking for exercise

Woman walking for exerciseSomething that always amazes me is the number of people who drive everywhere, park as close as possible to where they are going, and seem to avoid walking at all costs.

A lot of the people I know who do this also have gym memberships and go there to exercise fairly regularly. They probably drive right up to the gym door too.

So what’s my problem? I’m wondering why these people don’t take the opportunity to exercise by walking, that’s what. Walking is great exercise and it would supplement what they do at the gym.

There are also people who don’t go to the gym, but drive everywhere. Why don’t they walk? Most people without a serious disability can walk, but many of them don’t.

Here we look at some of the potential benefits of walking for exercise.

Walking for weight loss – listen to Oprah

One of the reasons people go the gym to exercise is to lose weight, or to avoid gaining weight. Walking has been shown to be effective in weight control, so there’s a great opportunity that’s being missed.

I remember hearing Oprah Winfrey talking on her show about her own experiences of weight gain and weight loss. In Oprah’s opinion walking was the best way to reduce and control her weight, and this seemed to be the best form of exercise for her.

So with all the advice available to Oprah, she found walking to be the best exercise. So it must be good enough for the rest of us. Right?

How much walking to I have to do?

Where exercise is concerned it seems that you get huge benefits by doing a little compared to doing none. There seem to be fewer obvious health benefits from doing a lot compared to doing a little.

So, right away we can see that doing any walking is better than sitting around on the sofa, or in your car. If you must drive, maybe park a little further away from your destination and walk the last part.

But, if you are looking to lose some weight or give your heart and a lungs a bit of a workout you will probably have to walk a little further and a little more briskly.

10,000 steps walking challenge

It’s been suggested that walking 10,000 steps each day is the magic number for significantly improving your health. That’s 10,000 steps in total for everything you do in a day – you don’t need to go out and do a special 10,000 step walk.

You can buy pedometers fairly cheaply that will count the number of steps you take, so you don’t have to keep counting in your head. Which is a relief!

I’ve had a go at calculating how far 10,000 steps is, and if each step is about half a yard, then that’s 5,000 yard, which is equivalent to just under three miles.

Walking helps with a weight loss diet

A person who weighs 70kg (155lbs) could burn around 440 calories by walking 10,000 steps briskly over the course of a day. This seems a pretty good return for this undemanding exercise.

The way to start with this is to buy a cheap pedometer and see how many steps you take currently. Then, look for ways to increase this by walking a little more in your day to day activities.

Funnily enough, for weight loss it looks like 30 minutes walking most days of the week is as good as 60 minutes walking, when combined with a low fat, low calorie diet.

In addition to weight loss, the same study found that 30 minutes daily walking plus dieting reduced waist size and lowered blood cholesterol more than just dieting alone.

Walking and preventing osteoporosis

As women go through the menopause hormonal changes mean that the balance between bone production and bone breakdown starts to tip in the direction of bone breakdown.

It’s clear that weight-bearing exercise helps to slow this down since the pressure on the bone tissue stimulates bone cells to produce more bone tissue. In activity and a sedentary lifestyle promote bone breakdown, and it really is a case of use it or lose it.

Losing it can, of course, lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is caused by a reduction in bone density, which can increase the likelihood of serious fractures due to a fall.

Walking briskly for an hour starts has been shown to produce positive physiological changes within three months that help to protect against developing osteoporosis.

Many other health benefits of walking exercise

In addition to the two health promotion example above, walking exercise is beneficial for people who already have health problems; including kidney disease, heart disease and dementia.

Psychological benefits of walking

I’ll finish off with one of the main benefits of walking: it makes you feel better.

Studies have been done that show just walking can make you feel happier, and less likely to feel unhappy. It also looks as if where you walk has an effect too.

As you might expect walking in the park makes you feel more relaxed than walking in the street. Maybe this is because the buildings remind you of things you need to do, while the park takes you away from it all.

Whether you walk alone or with other people can have an effect too. People seem to get more psychological benefit from walking alone in the park, but more benefit from walking with friends in a street setting.

In any case though; in the park or street, with a friend or alone, walking improves your state of mind.

Off you go then…

So it seems pretty clear that this easy form of exercise that is available to most people can have enormous benefits for our physical and mental health. So get those shoes on and out you go.

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