Before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have heart or other health issues, talk to your doctor. If you’re not doing much aerobic exercise at all currently: “Start with a lighter volume of aerobic exercise and gradually work your way toward some specific goals,” advises Tripps. Over time, as you improve your aerobic fitness, you will be able to increase your exercise intensity.
The physical fitness of our nation is declining, proved by the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, some types of cardiovascular disease, and other medical conditions. To improve physical fitness, one must "practice," or work out. Emphasis should be on improving aerobic conditioning (stamina or endurance), muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility.
As we age, our risk of unsightly varicose veins increases—it's just not fair. However, walking is a proven way to prevent those unsightly lines from developing, says Luis Navarro, MD, founder, and director of The Vein Treatment Center in New York City. "The venous system includes a circulatory section known as 'the second heart,' which is formed by muscles, veins, and valves located in our calf and foot," he explains. "This system works to push blood back up to the heart and lungs—and walking strengthens this secondary circulatory system by strengthening and preserving leg muscle, which boosts healthy blood flow." If you already suffer from varicose veins, daily walking can help ease related swelling and restlessness in your legs, says Dr. Navarro. "Also, if you are genetically predisposed to have varicose and/or spider veins, walking daily can help delay the onset."
Aerobic exercise is any physical activity that makes you sweat, causes you to breathe harder, and gets your heart beating faster than at rest. It strengthens your heart and lungs and trains your cardiovascular system to manage and deliver oxygen more quickly and efficiently throughout your body. Aerobic exercise uses your large muscle groups, is rhythmic in nature, and can be maintained continuously for at least 10 minutes.
These exercise sessions are done in a swimming pool and are available at some fitness centres or through local community health services. Aquarobics is a low-impact way to improve heart fitness and muscle strength without stressing the joints. It’s particularly suitable for anyone who’s pregnant, has joint problems and is overweight or unused to exercise.
This one may seem obvious, but it's certainly a happy benefit for those who start walking regularly, says Dr. Jampolis. "As you continue to walk, you may notice your pants begin to fit more loosely around your midsection, even if the number on the scale isn't moving much," she says. "That's because regular walking can help improve your body's response to insulin, which can help reduce belly fat." Ariel Iasevoli, a personal trainer at Crunch gyms in New York City, adds that walking every day is one of the most effective low-impact ways to mobilize fat and positively alter body composition. "Daily walking increases metabolism by burning extra calories and by preventing muscle loss, which is particularly important as we get older," says Iasevoli. The best part? You don't have to slog it out on a treadmill at the gym to see these benefits. "One of my clients reduced her body fat by 2% in just one month by walking home from work each day, which was just under a mile," she says.
Taking a 30-minute walk a day is kind of like that proverbial apple: There's a good chance it'll keep the doctor away. From helping you lose weight and de-stress to lowering your blood pressure and reducing your risk of many chronic diseases—going for regular walks is one of the best and easiest things you can do for your health, says Melina B. Jampolis, MD, author of The Doctor on Demand Diet. "Walking is the number one exercise I recommend to most of my patients because it is very easy to do, requires nothing but a pair of tennis shoes, and has tremendous mental and physical benefits," she says. Here's what you can expect when you start walking for just 30 minutes every day, most days of the week.