Walk for better health

I'll say it again, let's go for a walk! Walking is one of the most beneficial forms of "daily activity" and formal type of exercise (informal too!) that we can do which carries the least risk! Just about all of us can do it; we all know how to do it; we can do it almost everywhere, anytime, and as a form of exercise it offers us lots of variety.

And now that it's Spring, we can also watch the flowers bloom as we walk, so what more can we ask for? Here are a few other reasons to go for a walk:

Do we:

Want to lose weight? Then let's add more walking to our daily life activity. We can break it up (no torture here) by adding an extra block, an extra flight of stairs, a longer walk to the car. Do we live in an urban area? Let's go to the store instead of ordering in! Play golf? Let's walk instead of riding the golf cart. Do we have a problem with evening snacking? Let's take a walk!

Walking at a moderate pace burns calories and if we walk for longer periods of time even slowly, we will burn more body fat. Our body uses fat for its slow burning energy requirements. Think a few calories here and there won't add up? Think again! An extra 100 calories a day burned by walking, can amount to a 10-pound weight loss in one year without really trying (as long as we don't eat more!).

Want to increase cardiovascular health? Walking can be an intense form of an aerobic exercise even for those of us who are very fit. In one study, Olympic race walkers (race walking begins at six mph) were able to keep up with runners aerobically when tested while running, but the runners did not fare as well aerobically when asked to race walk.

This means that there is a cross-over training effect for cardiovascular fitness for race walkers but not for runners. While I'm not suggesting we all take up race walking (I did try a slow version once myself, and it's hard!), we can walk fast; we can walk uphill, and most of us can last longer walking versus running! Lastly, at moderate to fast speeds, exercise walking has a higher metabolic demand than jogging.

Want to save our joints? Exercise walking is also safer and gentler on our joints. It is associated with fewer injuries than running because our feet, hence our body hit the ground with much less impact. So, for those of us who cannot tolerate high impact exercise, walking is a safer bet.

But, for those of us who can tolerate high impact, let's try a slower paced "race walk" as an alternative to running, just one run day a week to help save our joints. In fact, walking is so safe for the majority of us, that those of us with a history of arthritis, flat feet, bunions, etc., can begin a walking program with special instructions/training from a sports physician.

Want to manage stress? We can go for a walk during our lunch break, after our evening meal, during a heated debate with a loved one (yes, we can!). We can take a quick walk in the morning to get our blood moving, and we can even take a walk around the block as a "time out" which can help us to manage stress.

We don't need special clothing, and we can even walk around the block during cold weather if we bundle up. Fresh air, a few deep breaths, and a break from our indoor environment can bring more oxygen to our brain, give a glow to our skin and give us a few minutes to de-stress! I even suggest to my clients to take a 10 minute walk before compulsively choosing a snack or food we might regret eating.

So, while the technique for walking for fitness may be enhanced by a lesson, we can all walk more whether we use it as our formal exercise or not. Walking is listed as a daily activity on our Daily Activity Pyramid, so, let me say it again, "Let's Go for a Walk!

For more tips, go to www.junefit.com

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