Walking is a better form of exercise for most people.
Why walking? This article reviews the many reasons walking is better than higher impact exercise such as running. For me, I chose walking because I have a physical limitation that keeps me from running long distances. After having major ankle reconstruction surgery, I have been limited in my ability to run.
There are lots of reasons to reduce running and walk. I preface the rest of this article with the comment that you should talk to a physician before you start an exercise program. This is especially true if you have or a close family member has had diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Any change in your activity can be a risk if you are over 40 and have been sedentary for a long period. That being said, walking is the simplest way to get a cardiovascular workout, and in my opinion, walking is the lowest risk.
You can do it almost anywhere and it does not require any special equipment. It is easy to get started and you can do it with your family. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. I remember communities in Germany often have a weekend Volksmarch in which entire communities would get out as a group and participate in a non-competitive 3.1 mile (5 km) or 6.2 miles (10 km) walk. It’s not a pledge walk, it’s not a race, it is a fun activity you do with a club, with your family, with your pet, or all by yourself. It is very family-oriented and often you get a prize for participating. Once complete, there is usually a meal or beer fest to celebrate its completion.
Although it might sound fun, if you are trying to lose weight, I recommend against the beer and heavy meal after 5 kilometers. It kind of defeats the purpose, but I love the idea of a community exercising together. There are many great reasons to walk. As with all cardiovascular exercises, your heart will get stronger. Walking can lower your blood pressure and increase bone strength. Walking is also nature’s Prozac since it will ease stress, reduce depression, help you sleep better, and can help boost your outlook or optimistic view of life.
I recommend that you walk at a brisk pace for 30-60 minutes or more per day and at least 4-5 days per week. I would recommend that you start slow and work up to this performance. The best thing about walking is you can do it alone or with a group. Peer pressure is a great thing to keep you exercising. All you really need is a pair of walking shoes.
Intensity and Impact Level:
Walking is a low intensity and low impact exercise. Low impact means that you are less likely to injure yourself. It is ideal because you can usually talk when you exercise. When you can talk, you have enough oxygen to efficiently burn fat. As you become more fit, your pace will increase or your can add stairs or hills to your routine. You can do it outside, in a mall, or on a treadmill.
Walking is great for beginners. Walking is an ideal type of exercise when you’re just getting started. You can go as fast or as slow as you need. It’s easy to bump up your pace and go longer distances as you get better.
- It will help maintain a healthy weight.
- It will help prevent heart disease and vascular disease by improving circulation.
- Because it can help reduce your waist line, it will lower your risk for diabetes.
- It will strengthen your bones and muscles and thus reduce age related fractures.
- Reduces depression and stress by lightening your mood.
- Improves balance and coordination and thus will reduce falls (see 4).
- Walking can increase your life span especially if you avoid traffic.
- Walking will improve your sleep quality.
- Walking can reduce arthritis by improving cartilage health.
- Walking improves your stamina and ability to breathe.
- Walking slows mental decline as we age.
- It is easier to maintain over a lifetime.
- And much more……
- It takes time.
- Lower calorie expenditure when compared to higher intensity exercises.
- Longer duration required for cardiovascular protection.
The bottom line: Personally, the pros are much more than the cons so get started today. Walking is a low impact form of exercise that is tolerated by almost everyone. Get out there and walk. Start slow and work up to more and more miles.