If you’re not as fit as you’d like to be, walking “can help tremendously,” says Matheny. He calls walking “a great entry point for a lot of people” and says it’s a “key foundation to have in place for getting in shape.” And yes, this “counts” as cardio. “Any physical activity that elevates your heart rate above its normal resting rate can be considered cardio,” says Matheny.
So to recap, walking daily is excellent. Walking daily for 10,000 steps or more is even better. And if you can do so outdoors in the sunshine, and barefoot for grounding, you’ll enjoy even greater benefits. To be clear, you don’t have to do your 10,000 steps a day all at once. You can break up your daily steps into any size increments that work for you. You might walk for one hour in the early morning, 30 minutes during your lunch hour, and another hour in the evening. Or you might enjoy taking shorter 20-minute walks throughout your day.
Aerobic fitness is a stronger independent predictor of morbidity and mortality compared with physical activity. However, it is difficult sometimes to delineate between the individual effects of aerobic fitness versus total weekly caloric energy expenditure (physical activity). Furthermore, measuring total weekly energy expenditure in both free-living and structured exercise is much more difficult than measuring aerobic fitness.
If you are new to walking, you cannot walk for long distances immediately. So, break up your walking routine. Start by walking 10 minutes every day. Gradually increase this duration to 30 minutes a day. Then, you can walk 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. You should also gradually increase the pace of your walking. When you are comfortable enough, you can try to walk 10,000 steps a day. Take necessary breaks in between. And, of course, keep yourself hydrated.
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.
There's some good news for people undergoing cancer treatment. In one study, aerobic exercise performed five days per week for 30-35 minutes for six weeks at 80% of maximal heart rate reduced fatigue in women being treated for cancer. In another study, 10 weeks of aerobic exercise at 60% of maximum heart rate for 30-40 minutes, four days per week, reduced depression and anxiety in female cancer patients. Aerobic exercise isn't a panacea when it comes to cancer, but evidence suggests that it certainly can help.
4. It eases joint pain. Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain, and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.
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In the end, vigorous running wins out for calorie burn, but remember that calories aren't everything. Obsessing over exactly how many calories you consume or burn is just as unhealthy as not exercising at all. So choose the activity you love most—whether it be walking or running—and focus less on the calories and more on how much better you feel after doing it.
Another American study found that people who walked for at least four hours a week gained less weight (an average nine pounds less) than couch potatoes as they got older. Last year, researchers at the University of Colorado found that regular walking helped to prevent peripheral artery disease (which impairs blood flow in the legs and causes leg pain in one-fifth of elderly people).
The same goes for intensity, too: Hiking or climbing stairs can actually bring your walking METs burn up to running levels. “Greater muscle forces are required to move faster to accelerate the body up and down, move the limbs faster, and work against gravity,” says Hunter. “Running or walking uphill requires a greater energy, just like lifting weights upwards. It’s as if our body is the weight that we must move to greater heights, so the greater the slope, the greater the energy requirement.”
Knowing a bit about the health benefits of walking can also help you stay on track. Not only can walking benefit your heart, bones, and joints, it can also prolong your life. In a 10-year study of 650,000 adults over 40, those who got 75 minutes of moderate activity, like walking, weekly, lived on average, nearly two years longer than their sedentary counterparts. Walkers who logged just over an hour a day gained four and a half years!
Metabolic syndrome—the evil trifecta of increased blood pressure/cholesterol, high blood sugar, and fat around your waist—is one of the worst side effects of our sedentary lifestyle. It signals diabetes, heart disease, and even early death. But we have an old-fashioned cure to this modern-day disease: exercise. Any cardio exercise, including walking, can stop metabolic syndrome and even reverse the damage, according to a study published in Circulation. But intensity is the key to revving up your metabolism. Rather than just taking a leisurely stroll, try alternating walking fast and slow. Here 16 more ways to channel the benefits of walking into weight-loss.
Harvard Medical School notes that walking is an ideal form of exercise because of its simplicity. While other exercises can take a period of adjustment that can occasionally be frustrating, walking is a natural movement that doesn't require you to be a finely tuned athlete. The benefits of aerobic exercise, notes the Cleveland Clinic, include more cardiovascular endurance, better lung capacity and a lower risk of heart-related ailments. Exercises such as walking also help you to manage your stress.
When it comes to losing or managing weight, calories come into play. And it’s not just the calories you consume through food that matter – it’s the calories you burn through activity, those you burn while digesting and assimilating food (thermic effect of food), and the ones you burn each day (basal metabolic rate) just to maintain basic bodily function.
In general, to increase your aerobic fitness you should exercise intensely enough to reach your target heart rate range. Your target heart rate range is 60% to 80% of your maximum heart rate. A general formula to determine your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. (For example, if you are 50 years old, your maximum heart rate is 170 and your target heart rate range is 102 to 136.) Check your heart rate as you exercise and try to keep it within your target heart rate range.
You could increase your calorie burn by drizzling some hot sauce on your food. Hot sauce is made from hot peppers, which contain a spice called capsaicin. According to a 2012 study in the journal Chemical Senses, capsaicin increases both calorie burn and fat burn. Use hot sauce to add some flavor to a chicken breast for a healthy dinner, or mix in some hot sauce to spice up your scrambled eggs.