To estimate the amount of energy—remember, energy equals calories—the body uses during physical activity (versus when you’re at rest), scientists use a unit that measures the metabolic equivalent for task (MET). One MET is what your body burns while lounging on the couch watching Netflix. Walking, a "moderate" exercise, uses 3 to 6 METs; running, which is typically classified as "vigorous," uses 6 METs or more.
The list of studies that show that aerobic exercise prevents or reduces the occurrence of cardiovascular disease is so long that it would take this entire article and probably five others just like it to review all of the research. One of the most important is one of the earliest. In a study of more than 13,000 men and women, it was shown that the least fit individuals had much higher rates of cardiovascular disease than fit individuals -- in some cases, the risk was twice as high. Aerobic exercise works in many ways to prevent heart disease; two of the most important are by reducing blood pressure and allowing blood vessels to be more compliant (more compliant means that they become less stiff and it's less likely for fat to accumulate and clog up the vessels). Results like these have been proven over and over again.
Raise your hand if you’re stressed out. OK, OK, put both your hands back down. Most of us swim in a pool of stress every day and that takes a serious toll on our mental and physical health. But science says one of the benefits of walking is it’s one of the fastest, most effective ways to calm down. Moving clears cortisol, the “stress hormone”, out of your system and also helps stop the never-ending stream of worries going through your mind, according to a study published in The American Journal of Cardiology. Here are tricks for getting the most happiness out of your walk.
FITNESS DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only. Vigorous high-intensity exercise is not safe or suitable for everyone. You should consult a physician before beginning a new diet or exercise program and discontinue exercise immediately and consult your physician if you experience pain, dizziness, or discomfort. The results, if any, from the exercises may vary from person-to-person. Engaging in any exercise or fitness program involves the risk of injury. Mercola.com or our panel of fitness experts shall not be liable for any claims for injuries or damages resulting from or connected with the use of this site. Specific questions about your fitness condition cannot be answered without first establishing a trainer-client relationship.
There you have it. Aerobic exercise is awesome stuff! It strengthens your heart, adds strength to your muscles and makes them more efficient fuel-burners, increases your endurance and your energy, improves your mood, makes you fit and healthy, and much, much more. It could take as little as 30 minutes out of your day for a tremendous payoff so I suggest giving it a shot. Follow my advice for getting started by doing only what is realistic and build up slowly. You have only health and fitness to gain, and you're worth it! Good luck!
For joints to work at their best, you need to keep them moving. Regular walking gives knee joints a workout, increases your muscle strength and can keep your bones strong, giving definition to calves, quads, hamstrings and lifting your glutes. Walking not only stimulates and strengthens bones, increases their density and helps maintain healthy joints, it can also fend off conditions such as arthritis and help prevent or alleviate back pain.
Classes are great for people who like to exercise with others, who like to dance, who like music and rhythm, who want the extra motivation and energy that an instructor and class provides, and who prefer the structure and schedule of a regular class. Classes, equipment, and videos are all great ways to stay fit and healthy, but if you're limited by injury or other conditions, then aerobic exercise chair workouts may be just the thing (see resources for online vendors). The instructor leads you through a workout in a chair and it's great exercise. You might not need chair exercise, but you may have a parent or friend who does. Exercise videos and DVDs make great gifts!
But once you could do it instinctively, I can’t imagine why you’d go back to your regular walk. This is not a fitness walk; this is an everyday walk that happens to make you fit. As Hall lists the evidence in its favour, with the zeal of a person who loves to solve problems, WalkActive sounds further and further away from the amble, the mosey, the saunter.
You should walk with great attention to your back foot, as though you’re peeling it off the ground like very strong Velcro. You should pay intense heed to the difference between each of your toes, as they touch and leave the ground. You should be aware of your foot’s contours, and this will activate your large posterior muscle chains, the hamstring and the glutes. Along with your active foot will come an open ankle; if you peel your foot off the ground in segments – so it’s not even thinking about becoming airborne until you come to the pivot point between the pad of your foot and your toes – your ankle will open up and become agile, intelligent.
How to measure progress: Other than simply feeling great and watching the scale, you can actually measure what walking is doing for your body. Before you begin your activity program, have your doctor check your cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose (high levels can be a sign of early or undiagnosed diabetes), and your body mass index (BMI). BMI is a number that reflects your height-to-weight ratio (simply take your weight in pounds, multiply by 703 and divide by your height in inches squared -- keep this number under 25 for optimal health).
Every session of aerobic exercise should include a warm-up and cool-down. The warm-up period should not include static stretching, but should instead be a gradual increase in pace and intensity of the exercise. This allows for the body to increase blood flow to the muscles, and decreases the likelihood of a muscle or joint injury. The warm-up should last between 5 and 10 minutes. The cool-down session should last a similar amount of time as the warm-up, with the pace gradually decreasing. Stretching exercises would be appropriate after aerobic exercise.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
If it’s too difficult to walk for 30 minutes at one time, do regular small bouts (10 minutes) three times per day and gradually build up to longer sessions. However, if your goal is to lose weight, you will need to do physical activity for longer than 30 minutes each day. You can still achieve this by starting with smaller bouts of activity throughout the day and increasing these as your fitness improves.
It should be noted that the MET approach was designed to build a classification system of different activities for research purposes - MET values "do not estimate the energy cost of physical activity in individuals in ways that account for differences in body mass, adiposity, age, sex, efficiency of movement, geographic and environmental conditions in which the activities are performed. Thus, individual differences in energy expenditure for the same activity can be large and the true energy cost for an individual may or may not be close to the stated mean MET level as presented in the Compendium." (as quoted from the main page of the Compendium of Physical Activities)
In July 1996, research from the Cooper Institute showed that participating in moderate to high levels of physical activity reduced the risk of dying from any given cause. This held true regardless of other risk factors. In other words, even if an individual suffers from high blood pressure or obesity, the chances of dying are lessened by maintaining at least a moderate level of fitness. This is remarkably good news, especially for individuals who have hereditary risk factors such as a family history of heart disease.
‘Aerobic’ exercise refers to exercise that requires the consumption of substantially more oxygen than at rest. It is of a light to moderate intensity, and can be undertaken for a prolonged duration (many minutes to several hours) without excessive fatigue. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, swimming or cycling at a steady pace. Another example would be dancing or ‘aerobics’ classes.Regular exercise causes your body to make adjustments that result in improved health and physical functioning. Continuing with regular exercise enables your body to maintain these benefits. Regularly doing the right types of exercise at the correct intensity, and for an appropriate duration, results in the most benefit.The benefits of aerobic exercise can be broadly categorised as either ‘fitness’ (physical capacity) or ‘health’. Fitness and health are linked, and most forms of aerobic exercise will help you achieve both.Fitness — including increased cardiorespiratory fitness and endurance (stamina)Regular aerobic exercise improves your cardiovascular fitness by increasing your capacity to use oxygen. It does this by increasing your heart’s capacity to send blood (and hence oxygen) to the muscles. This is mainly achieved through an increase in the size of the heart’s pumping chambers (ventricles), which means that your heart doesn’t have to beat as fast to deliver the same amount of blood. This is evident in a slower resting heart rate, and a slower heart rate for the same exercise intensity.As you get ‘fitter’, particular activities (such as walking or jogging at a specified speed) will become easier.You’ll also be able to undertake the activity for longer (known as endurance), and/or at a higher intensity (e.g. jogging at a faster speed). The same applies to activities such as cycling or swimming, but it should be noted that fitness tends to be specific. So jogging will provide only limited benefits to your swimming fitness and vice versa. However, a side-benefit you may notice is that you also have increased stamina for the everyday activities of life, not just for exercise.Other fitness improvements occur in the exercising muscles, and are specific to those muscles being used in the mode of exercise (e.g. walking, running, cycling, or swimming). These include an increased capacity for the muscles to take up and use the additional oxygen being delivered by the heart.Reduced risk of certain health problemsRegular aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer. It can lower blood pressure and improve your blood cholesterol by reducing the levels of LDL-cholesterol (so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol) and increasing the amount of HDL-cholesterol (so-called ‘good’ cholesterol). It can also reduce anxiety, stress and depression, as well as instilling a general sense of well-being. Regular aerobic exercise has even been shown to have the potential to increase your lifespan.Low-impact aerobic exercise such as swimming is valuable for improving general health and fitness in people who have arthritis or other conditions that limit their ability to do weight-bearing exercise.Importantly, whereas fitness tends to be quite specific, many health benefits can be gained from any form of aerobic exercise. Additionally, the health gains can be achieved from relatively moderate amounts of exercise — moving from a lifestyle involving no exercise to one that involves some exercise can lead to substantial improvements in health.Weight controlAerobic exercise burns up energy (calories). Regular sessions of 30 to 60 minutes of low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise (at around 55 to 70 per cent of maximum heart rate) can be an important part of a weight loss or weight management programme that is also mindful of the energy (calories) consumed as food.However, many of the health benefits associated with aerobic exercise occur independently of weight loss. Evidence from large studies has shown that active, overweight people do not have a greater risk of many diseases than inactive people who are not overweight. From a health perspective, it is of course best to be both active and a healthy weight, but if weight reduction is a problem, it doesn’t mean that the exercise is having no benefit.Improved bone and muscle healthYour risk of osteoporosis (excessive bone thinning as you age) can be reduced by regular weight-bearing aerobic exercise such as brisk walking.By stimulating the growth of tiny blood vessels in your muscle tissues, aerobic exercise has also been shown to lessen the pain experienced by people who have fibromyalgia or chronic low back pain, as the oxygen supply to the muscles is improved and waste products are removed more efficiently.Social benefitsRegular aerobic exercise can have social benefits too, whether you walk with a friend, play tennis with workmates, or form a social cycling team. Exercising with friends can also be the most effective way of ensuring that you do it regularly.Aerobic exercise precautionsAs with any form of exercise, be aware of over-exercising, either by doing aerobic exercise too hard, for too long or too often. This approach can lead to injury, and abandoning of your fitness programme. Remember to build up gradually from your current activity level, and not to progress too rapidly. If you are new to regular aerobic exercise, several weeks of low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise are usually advised before introducing more vigorous aerobic exercise sessions.If you have existing health problems, are at high risk of cardiovascular disease, or have muscle, bone or joint injuries, check with your doctor before undertaking an aerobic exercise programme. Also, men aged over 40 years and women aged over 50 years who have not exercised regularly in the recent past should check with a doctor before undertaking a programme of vigorous physical activity. Last Reviewed: 11 January 2010
I walked along my bus route, assuming that sooner or later, my arrival at another bus stop would coincide with the arrival of my bus. But it didn’t. So I walked some more, eventually making it to work, a mere 20 minutes later than I normally would have, calmer than I might have anticipated, and feeling like I’d accomplished something vaguely mammoth before 10am. I also felt liberated. Who wants to be enslaved to their public transport systems, beholden to the schedules, the whims and capriciousness. Suddenly, I had another option.
Your weight x distance = energy used walking. Time does not matter as much as distance. If you speed up to walking a mile in 13 minutes or less, you will be burning more calories per mile. But for most beginning walkers, it is best to increase the distance before working on speed. A simple rule of thumb is 100 calories per mile for a 180 pound person.