Benefits of Walking for Exercise
Getting exercise by walking is extremely easy. All you need to do is lace up your walking shoes and hit the pavement. Walking can boost your health in quite a few important ways. Walking is one of the most studied and popular forms of exercising. There are multiple studies that have proven it is the best thing we can do to improve our overall health.
According to the Consumer Reports, also has one of the lowest injury rates of any form of exercise. It also lowers the risk of blood clots, since the calf is essentially a vein pump; it contracts and pumps blood from the feet and legs back to the heart. This reduces the amount of work the heart has to do. Walking is good for you in many other ways, including:
- Improves circulation: Boosts circulation to ward off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart.
- Supports your bones: It can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis. Studies have shown that post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40 percent.
- Leads to a longer life: According to the Arthritis.org website, studies have shown that 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. It goes up to 45 percent less likely for those who already have health conditions.
- Improves mood: Walking releases natural painkilling endorphins to the body – one of the emotional benefits of exercise.
- Weight loss: A brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories, which means that over time, this can lead to weight dropped.
- Strengthens muscles: Walking can help tone your legs and abdominal muscles. You can even tone arm muscles if you pump them as you walk. Strengthening these muscles helps to increase your range of motion. The motion of shifting the pressure and weight from your joints and muscles, both of which are designed to handle the weight, help to lessen arthritis pain.
- Improves sleep: According to arthritis.org, 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.
- Joint support: The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply. It gets its nutrition from the synovial or joint fluid that circulates as we move. The impact that comes from movement or compression, such as walking, squeezes the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area. So, if you aren’t walking, your joints are being deprived of life-giving fluid, which can weaken them.
- Improves your breathing: When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through the bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products and improve your energy level and the ability to heal.
- Reduces mental decline: The Arthritis.org reports that a study performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, noted that age-related memory decline was a lot lower for those who walked more. In fact, women who 2.5 miles per day had a 17-percent decline in memory, compared to a 25-percent decrease in women who walked less than a half-mile per week.
- Helps you do more, for longer: Aerobic walking and resistance exercise programs may reduce the incidence of disability in the activities of daily living of people who are older than 65 and have symptomatic osteoarthritis.
How to Create a Walking Routine
It may feel like walking is too low-impact to have a meaningful effect on your weight, but that’s not true. Especially if you’re just starting out, running may be too much too fast and is also not the best weight loss exercise for everyone.
Ultimately, it comes down to your situation and needs. Know that a walking program is an effective form of exercise and can lead to weight loss with proper calorie balance, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re not doing enough. In fact, it’s a lot easier to stick with a walking plan instead of a running plan.
To walk for exercise, start off small, like a 10-minute walk, if you can. If you don’t think you can, which is common for those who haven’t really been exercising a lot, try walking for as long as you can. Over time, you can slowly increase the length of your walk.
Try increasing it by 30 seconds to a minute at a time. Once you’re comfortable walking for a full 10 minutes, increase your time by 5 minutes each week. Eventually, you’ll be able to walk 45 minutes or more a day.
When it comes to an exercise routine, the best thing you can do is be realistic. Don’t be harsh on yourself if you aren’t able to go long distances right away. Remember, it’s best to work up to them anyways! Especially if you’re new to exercise. Just focus on starting slow and being consistent. You’ll notice your body getting stronger and going longer distances will be easier and easier.
One helpful, well-known technique is setting “S-M-A-R-T goals.” These are “specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely” goals that will help you structure your walking and give you something to work towards. Once you talk to your doctor (if need be), start looking into gear (like walking shoes, sticks, etc) and technique (location and speed). Starting small and learning a few basics will be enough at first and you can always invest in more down the line.