Walk your way to better health

FIT Staff
Dec 4, 2013

A regular walking program is an easy way to improve your fitness level, manage your weight and help prevent disease.

It's amazing that simply putting one foot in front of the other—and doing it over and over again—can have so many health benefits. But by all accounts, walking—plain old cheap, safe and simple walking—is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Rewards of walking

The list of health benefits is long. According to the Arthritis Foundation and AARP, benefits of walking include:

·         Improved fitness. Walking can increase strength, endurance, flexibility and muscle mass. It can also reduce body fat and help you better manage your weight.

·         Disease prevention. Walking can help reduce the risk of a variety of diseases such as stroke, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, glaucoma, impotence, and colon and breast cancers. It can also help prevent, treat and manage arthritis symptoms.

·         Likewise, studies consistently show a lower risk of heart disease as people increase their walking time or distance.

·         Walking can also help control blood pressure and keep cholesterol numbers in a healthy range.

·         Better mental health.

The benefits of walking go beyond the strictly physical. Walking can also help you sleep better and reduce depression and anxiety. And walking as a family can improve communication as well as health.

Who stands to gain?

The people who'll get the most out of walking are likely to be those who are new to exercise. But even so, walking is not just for beginners. By walking faster, farther or over more difficult terrain, you can make walking as strenuous or as easy as you want.

Getting going

 

·         Get a physical first, especially if you haven't had one in a year.

·         Get a good pair of walking shoes.

·         Find a safe neighborhood and plan to walk when there's plenty of light—and if the weather's hot, walk before or after the hottest part of the day.

·         Walk slowly a few minutes to warm up, and then stretch for 5 to 10 minutes. Focus on the muscles in your legs and lower back.

·         Walk for 10 to 30 minutes a day (depending on your current level of conditioning). If you've been inactive for a long time, start with a shorter walk. As you get used to exercising, increase your walking time by about 10 percent a week.

·         Walk at a pace at which you can carry on a conversation. If you're gasping for breath, slow down.