Walk Your Way to Fitness
Gyms offer many benefits, but you don’t need one to get fit. If you lack access to a gym, or the time to visit one, you can still get in shape by exercising at home. And when it comes to home exercise, top on my list is a very simple activity: walking.
A 20-year study of 72,000 female nurses showed that brisk walking for just three hours per week was associated with a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of heart disease. The study also linked walking to risk reductions for breast cancer and type 2 diabetes. Another study of more than 11,000 men showed that brisk walking for an hour a day, five days a week, can cut the risk of stroke in half.
Researchers have also found that consistent exercise like walking reduces bone mineral density loss. Other studies indicate that a walking outside or on a treadmill can help:
- relieve arthritis and back pain
- strengthen muscles, bones and joints
- prevent colon cancer
- improve or prevent constipation
- prevent impotence
- lengthen your lifespan
- improve your sleep
- elevate your mood
- reduce anxiety and stress
- prevent depression
- prevent hip fractures
Implementing a Walking Program
To get the most out of walking, it’s best to follow a steady routine. If you’re a beginner, start by walking 10 minutes at a time, gradually moving up to at least 45 minutes. Lengthen the time of your walks before boosting your speed or incline. Ultimately, you should strive to walk at least 30 minutes per day, 5 or more days per week.
While walking, don’t slouch your shoulders, lean forward from the waist or allow your back to sway. To increase the intensity, concentrate on taking faster steps, not longer ones – your stride will lengthen naturally as you pick up speed. Hold your elbows at a right angle so your arms can swing more quickly. Your hands should trace an arc from alongside your waist on the back swing to no higher than chest height in the front. Consciously push off from your toes, generating as much boost as possible with each step.
You should be able to maintain a conversation during your walks. If you’re breathing too lightly, increase your pace. If you can’t catch your breath, slow down. By staying in this zone, you’ll burn the maximum amount of body fat while minimizing muscle loss.
Finally, keep these tips in mind:
- Stretch before and after your walk to reduce the chances of injury
- Wear a hat and sunscreen
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Bring water so you can stay hydrated
If you hope to lose a huge amount of weight or build massive muscles, walking alone won’t suffice. But if you want to boost your fitness level and reduce your susceptibility to disease, it’s a great option. It’s astonishing to think that something so simple can do so much good.