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Walking Your Way to Fitness

Nothing is better than walking for overall fitness and health. Of all the types of exercise, walking is the one I recommend the most, and not just for beginners, but for regular exercisers and even professional athletes. It’s the most fail-safe exercise. Scientific studies show that walking burns a higher percentage of fat than any other activity because of its low intensity.

Walking activates the small aerobic muscle fibers, which often are not stimulated by higher-intensity aerobic workouts. Walking also helps circulate blood, process lactic acid and improve lymph drainage (important to the body’s waste-removal system). Walking is one of the best ways to get started on an exercise program since it’s a simple, low-stress workout that is not easily overdone.

Walkers generally have little difficulty keeping their heart rates from getting too high, though there are exceptions. If there’s a problem with walking, it’s that the heart rate won’t go high enough into the maximum aerobic range (which isn’t absolutely necessary). The mechanics of walking result in less gravity stress than you experience jogging or running, but still enough to give you the important fatburning benefits, and others such as bone-strengthening effects.

We’ve all heard and read about the many wonderful benefits of exercise. But did you know most studies that demonstrate these great benefits were done using walking? You don’t need to make exercise complicated, expensive or intense. And I’m talking about just an easy walk — not power walking, race walking or carrying weights.

Here are some of the facts about the benefits of easy walking:

  • Regular, easy walking increases life expectancy. It also helps older adults maintain their functional independence, an important concern for society. Currently, the average number of non-functional years in our elderly population is about 12. That’s a dozen years at the end of a lifespan of doing nothing: unable to care for yourself, walk, be productive or just enjoy life.
  • Regular, easy physical exercise such as walking can help prevent and manage coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, as well as hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression. This occurs through improved balance of blood fats, better clotting factors, improved circulation and the ability to more efficiently regulate blood sugar.
  • Regular exercise like walking decreases your risk of developing degenerative disease. The lack of exercise places more people at risk for coronary heart disease than all other risk factors. Aerobic deficiency is an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease, doubling the risk. Inactivity is almost as great a risk for coronary heart disease as cigarette smoking and hypertension.

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