The Wonders of Walking


One of my favorite ways to get exercise is my evening walk. Its something that was instilled in me by my grandmother. We would often take walks after dinner. It was relaxing and it go us out of the house. I continued the practice with my daughter. We had a dog, so we kinda had to but we would walk a couple miles on nice evenings.

We never had a weight problem. Actually, we were too thin.

When I worked at the mall, they would open the mall early for walkers. We had a lot of people coming from the Cancer Treatment Center. But there was one little lady that surprised me. She said that she had been severely overweight. All she did was start a walking program. She did not change her diet. When I hadn’t seen her in a while, I was concerned. When she did pop up, she said that she had to slow it down because she had lost too much weight.

I saw this effect again when my sister and her boyfriend got a dog. They had been struggling with weight and health problems. Once they had to walk the dog, they lost a lot of weight!

People think that in order for exercise to be beneficial it must be hard. Turns out that something as simple as taking a walk at least a few times a week works wonders.

“In the United States, walking is the most popular form of physical exercise. Studies indicate that by walking for 30 minutes a day or more can help reduce stress and improve overall health and wellness. Walking is easy, free, convenient and you can move at your own pace. There are no memberships, contracts, or personal trainers required, so it’s definitely a great alternative to a gym.

In fact, walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running, according to a new study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkley, Calif. All three conditions are risk factors for heart disease and stroke — and you can do something about them.

Researchers analyzed 33,060 runners in the National Runners’ Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study. They found that the same energy used for moderate- intensity walking and vigorous intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and possibly coronary heart disease over the study’s six years.

The more people walked or ran each week, the more their health benefits increased.”

How to Start a Walking Program

Do you want to start walking and don’t know where to begin? Start off slowly. Walking is one of the easiest, most enjoyable, and most profitable forms of exercise for reducing stress and high blood pressure as well as for other conditions. All you need is a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothing, and desire.

First of all, start out slow and easy. Just walk out the door. For most people this means head out the door, walk for 10 minutes, and walk back. That’s it? Yes, that’s it. Do this every day for a week. If this was easy for you, add five minutes to your walks next week (total walking time 25 minutes). Keep adding 5 minutes until you are walking as long as desired.

If you’re new to walking, start off with slow, short sessions and build your way up gradually. Do not worry at all about speed in the beginning. After you have been walking for several weeks you can slowly start picking up your pace. If you have a medical condition or any health concerns be sure to check with your doctor for advice before you begin a routine.

Watch your posture. Walk tall. Think of elongating your body. Hold your head up and eyes forward. Your shoulders should be down, back and relaxed. Tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks and fall into a natural stride.

Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after walking. Incorporate a warm up, cool down and stretches into your routine. Start your walk at a slow warm-up pace, stop and do a few warm-up/flexibility drills. Then walk for the desired length of time. End your walk with the slower cool down pace and stretch well after your walk. Stretching will make you feel great and assist in injury prevention.

To improve cardiovascular fitness you should walk 3 to 4 days a week, 20 to 30 minutes at a very fast pace. At this pace, you are breathing harder but not gasping for air. Warm up and cool down in addition to the time spent at the faster pace.

If you are walking for weight loss you will probably need to a minimum 45 to 60 minutes five days a week at a moderate to brisk pace. Walking faster will burn more calories in the same amount of time. However, do increase both mileage and pace slowly to prevent injury.

What You Will Need

Wind, rain and sun can all affect your walking experience. But don’t let the weather derail your commitment to regular exercise. Make sure you’ve got what you need to keep you walking all year long.

Walking shoes: A good-fitting pair of walking shoes is priceless. They should be comfortable and offer ample cushioning and support for your feet.

Clothing: Dress in comfortable clothing that gives you freedom of movement. Start with a moisture-wicking layer that keeps sweat away from your body, and top it off with a breathable, windproof and water-resistant outer layer, depending on the weather.

Safety gear: If you’re walking at night, be sure to wear a reflective vest, a safety light, or at the very least, light-colored clothing so you’re visible to traffic, cyclists, runners and other walkers.

The Benefits of Walking

Walking improves circulation. It also wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Tennessee found that post-menopausal women who walked just one to two miles a day lowered blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Women who walked 30 minutes a day reduced their risk of stroke by 20 percent – by 40 percent when they stepped up the pace, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Walking can lead to weight loss. A brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped.

Walking improves sleep. A study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that women, ages 50 to 75, who took one-hour morning walks, were more likely to relieve insomnia than women who didn’t walk.

Walking leads to a longer life. Research out of the University of Michigan Medical School and the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System says those who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35 percent less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts. That number shoots up to 45 percent less likely for those who have underlying health conditions.

You didn’t know that something so simple as a brisk walk thirty minutes a day could have such a huge impact. Neither did I. I always believed that the more intense the better. But that is not the case. Walking for many can be an exercise that they can do. My doctor, especially after my second knee surgery, tells me all the time, “Walk, walk again, walk some more.” Thanks, Doc, for the well-spoken words of wisdom.

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