If you haven’t been active for a while, you may find walking is an easy way to get started. But it will also be important to keep your motivation. Begin slowly and gradually increase how much walking you do. You might find it helps to set yourself goals. There are lots of apps that can count your steps, or you could use a pedometer, so your goals can be specific and measurable.
Walking is also really easy to do, he points out: “You can do it anywhere, it's easy to get started, and there’s no setup time.” And, if you want to lose weight but are nervous about diving straight in to higher-impact activities, walking can help you lose body fat upfront, before you add in other types of fitness like running or spinning, says Matheny.
New research on the endocrine functions of contracting muscles has shown that both aerobic and anaerobic exercise promote the secretion of myokines, with attendant benefits including growth of new tissue, tissue repair, and various anti-inflammatory functions, which in turn reduce the risk of developing various inflammatory diseases. Myokine secretion in turn is dependent on the amount of muscle contracted, and the duration and intensity of contraction. As such, both types of exercise produce endocrine benefits.
Walking is a great exercise and helps you lose weight. American scientists designed an experiment where obese patients walked together (a concept known as the ‘walking bus’) to their destinations in and around the city. After 8 weeks, their weight was checked, and more than 50% of the participants lost an average of 5 pounds (4). Therefore, it might be a good idea to start walking to and from your nearby destinations, instead of driving your car.

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If you haven’t been active for a while, you may find walking is an easy way to get started. But it will also be important to keep your motivation. Begin slowly and gradually increase how much walking you do. You might find it helps to set yourself goals. There are lots of apps that can count your steps, or you could use a pedometer, so your goals can be specific and measurable.
“The 10,000 steps goal is thought to be a realistic minimum, and it’s good, but for complete risk reduction, people should aim for more,” says William Tigbe, M.D., Ph.D., a physician and public health researcher at University of Warwick and lead author of the study showing that 15,000 steps per day can lead to greater benefits. “In our study, those who took 5,000 extra steps had no metabolic syndrome risk factors at all.”

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You may want to consider keeping a simple log of your walking sessions. If you have a pedometer, a tool that calculates your steps and distance, you can write down how many steps you’ve taken that day. Did you walk on a treadmill? Write down your time, distance, and pace in a notebook or an Excel spreadsheet. Looking back on all your steps is a great way to stay motivated.

Interval training is more intense than simple aerobic training. It's a very effective way to increase your fitness level (remember stroke volume and mitochondria activity!), but it's tough, and so I recommend holding off until you build up to 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise. The idea to intervals is to set up work to active-rest ratios (work:active-rest), and as you get more fit, decrease the active-rest interval and increase the work interval. The work interval of the ratio is a speed that is faster than what you usually do, and the active-rest interval is your usual speed. To do it, you start at your usual speed for five to eight minutes, then increase the speed to the work interval for one to three minutes, then slow down to your usual speed for a few minutes to catch your breath (this is the active-rest interval), and then you repeat the cycling for the duration of your workout.

OK, so maybe you won’t have the ability to see through walls but you can protect your vision as you age by taking a daily walk, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers found that people who did regular aerobic activity had healthier eyeballs and were less likely to suffer from problems like retinal degeneration and age-related vision loss. So even if you aren’t Superman, you’ll still have super sight. Find out what your walking style says about your personality.
And then, of course, there’s speed: “Speed has a huge effect on caloric expenditure,” Hunter says. “The faster someone runs, the more calories they will burn per minute. However, by distance, there is a relatively steady amount of calories burned.” For example, in 30 minutes of running at 6 miles per hour (that’s a 10-minute mile pace), a 155-pound person will burn 372 calories. At 6.7 mph (or a 9-minute mile), they’ll burn 409 calories, and at 7.5 mph (an 8-minute mile pace), they’ll burn 465 calories. To double your calorie burn per mile, you’d have to literally cut more than 4 minutes off your pace, which is a huge amount of time. (Fast walking can actually help you raise your calorie burn to the same amount as what you’d burn jogging, in fact.)
In normal daily activity, adults cover about 2-3 miles. About 2,000 steps equal a mile. To make walking a beneficial activity, you would need to come up with at least another 4,000 steps in a day. You can find ways to add steps here and there, such as walking farther from parking lots, taking stairs when available instead of escalators and elevators, walking the long way to get somewhere in your office building, walking your children to school, having a walk/talk meeting instead of sitting down in a conference room, or planning a short walk around the block as a break.
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone density, which can lead to an increased risk of fracture. The good news is that exercise may increase bone density or at least slow the rate of decrease in both men and women. It may not work for everyone, and the precise amount and type of exercise necessary to accrue benefits is unknown, but there is evidence that it can help. In children there is good news, too. It seems that active children have greater bone density than sedentary children and that this may help prevent fractures later in life.

Aerobic fitness can be defined as the ability of the body’s cardiovascular and muscular systems to provide the necessary energy to sustain activity that uses the large muscle groups over an extended period of time. To reach aerobic fitness, a person must engage in continuous activity like jogging, walking, cycling, stair climbing, rowing, or swimming at an intensity level you can maintain for at least 30 minutes, three to seven days per week.
Men and women who walk briskly for more than 30 minutes a day were found to have lower BMIs and smaller waists than everyone else involved in the study. 'Given the obesity epidemic, and the fact that a large proportion of people in the UK are inactive, recommending that people walk briskly more often is a cheap and easy policy option,’ said Dr Grace Lordon, who lead the research.
Your bones tend to become weaker as you age. But the good news is you can strengthen your bones by walking regularly. This low-impact exercise prevents loss of bone density, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis, fracture, and injury. Since bones determine our framework, stronger and healthier bones help to improve posture, stamina, and balance (9). Walking can also prevent arthritis and reduce the accompanying pain.

Aerobic capacity is a measure of the ability to perform oxidative metabolism. Multiple systems are involved, including the pulmonary, cardiac, vascular, and musculoskeletal systems. Patients with MD have lower aerobic capacity, especially those patients with aggressive forms of MD (Sockolov et al., 1977; Edwards, 1980; Haller and Lewis, 1984; Lewis, 1984; Wright et al., 1996). Poor aerobic capacity results in reduced activity levels. Other organ dysfunction, such as decline in pulmonary status and cardiomyopathy, may further contribute to declining levels of aerobic capacity.
You may want to consider keeping a simple log of your walking sessions. If you have a pedometer, a tool that calculates your steps and distance, you can write down how many steps you’ve taken that day. Did you walk on a treadmill? Write down your time, distance, and pace in a notebook or an Excel spreadsheet. Looking back on all your steps is a great way to stay motivated.
This article provides some general guidelines to help you improve aerobic fitness and gain the many health benefits associated with it. Because everyone has individual health needs and concerns, the fitness suggestions here may not be the best approach for you. The most important thing is to incorporate exercise into your daily routine and to stick with it.
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.
You know how sometimes it takes a glass of wine or a square (or three) of dark chocolate to blunt the edge of a rough day? Well, going for a walk is a zero-calorie strategy with the same benefits, says Dr. Jampolis. "Research shows that regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you'll experience a decrease in anger and hostility," she says. What's more, when you make your walks social—you stride with, say, your partner, a neighbor, or a good friend—that interaction helps you feel connected, says Dr. Jampolis, which boosts mood. Finally, walking outdoors exposes you to natural sunlight, which can help stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—making it a potential antidote for the winter blues, says Dr. Jampolis.
Like walking, running is an inexpensive exercise you can do anywhere at a time that suits you. It is beneficial in helping to improve heart and bone health. Its advantage over walking is that it improves heart fitness and burns kilojoules at a greater rate. It takes roughly an hour for a walker to burn the same number of kilojoules that a runner burns in 30 minutes.
Researchers have really been looking into how exercise can help improve the quality and length of our life. Sanjay Sharma, professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London, pointed out that “Exercise buys you three to seven additional years of life. It is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.”
Just get up and walk! You don’t really even need to change your clothes or shoes (unless you’re wearing heels, of course). Note: If you’re looking to go for a power walk, then changing clothes and putting on proper shoes is probably a good idea. Go for a walk periodically throughout your day or head out for a walking meeting at work instead of sitting in a meeting room. And, for those of you who don’t have time to make it to the gym in the morning, you can just head out the door first thing in the morning and walk it out.
What is aerobic exercise?‘Aerobic’ exercise refers to exercise that requires the consumption of substantially more oxygen than at rest. It involves repeated rhythmic movements of the large muscles of your body, such as those in your arms or legs.Examples of aerobic exercise includebrisk walking;jogging;swimming;cycling;dancing;cross-country skiing;ice-skating;kayaking;roller-blading; andaerobic dance (often simply called aerobics).Because you need more oxygen to do aerobic exercise, you breathe more rapidly and deeply to get extra oxygen into your lungs. Your heart also beats faster to deliver more oxygen-carrying blood from your lungs to your muscles.How fast your heart beats and how rapidly you breathe will depend on how intense (hard) the exercise is, with gentle exercise causing only slight increases in breathing and heart rate, but more vigorous exercise resulting in greater increases.Aerobic versus anaerobic exerciseThe term ‘aerobic exercise’ comes from the fact that the energy used during this form of exercise is linked to the consumption of oxygen (aerobic metabolism). Aerobic exercise is of a light to moderate intensity, and is characterised by our ability to maintain it for a prolonged duration (many minutes to several hours).Very strenuous exercise, such as running fast or rapidly cycling uphill uses energy at a very fast rate, and will exceed our muscles’ capacity to work aerobically. Exercise at these higher intensities does involve the use of oxygen, but also requires your muscles to undertake some additional metabolism without oxygen (anaerobic metabolism). This anaerobic metabolism results in the production of fatiguing factors that cause you to have to slow down and eventually stop. The length of time before this occurs will depend on how much anaerobic metabolism is involved, with higher exercise intensities that require greater anaerobic metabolism causing fatigue to occur more quickly.How often should I do aerobic exercise?For general health and fitness benefits, such as reducing your risk of heart disease and improving your stamina, it is recommended that you do some form of moderate intensity aerobic exercise on most, and preferably all, days of the week, for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. This 30-minute total can be made up of shorter 10-minute sessions, if this is better suited to your day. These short sessions will still provide health benefits and produce some fitness improvements, although to substantially increase your fitness you probably need to include at least some 30-minute sessions in your week.To maintain your level of aerobic fitness, and the health advantages that go with it, you need to keep up a regular aerobic exercise routine. Giving up your routine or doing less exercise will cause your fitness and associated health benefits to decline.It’s also important to avoid prolonged sedentary behaviour, such as sitting continuously for several hours. So, in addition to trying to incorporate exercise into your day, you should also try to break up your sedentary behaviours, for example by getting up and walking around your office for a few minutes every hour, or during the advertisement breaks when watching TV.How hard should I do aerobic exercise?To improve your general health and fitness, moderate intensity aerobic exercise is recommended. However, if you are very unfit and currently do no exercise, even short bouts of light exercise will be of benefit. With continued participation, this light exercise will produce fitness improvements that will enable you to progress to moderate intensity exercise.As a general guide, ‘moderate intensity’ aerobic exercise may make you slightly breathless, but still able to hold a conversation, and you should be able to sustain this level of exercise for at least 30 minutes. An example would be when going on a brisk walk, jog or bike ride with a friend.If you want to be more exact in determining your exercise intensity, then you can use your heart rate as a guide. Moderate intensity exercise is likely to increase your heart rate to between 55 and 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate. More vigorous exercise will increase your heart rate even further.How to estimate your maximum heart rateHow to estimate your maximum heart rateYour maximum heart rate in beats per minute = approx 220 minus your ageBut this is a rough estimate, and there is a lot of individual variation. (Your maximum heart rate tends to decline by about 1 beat per year with increasing age.)You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age in years from 220. For someone who is 40, for example, their maximum heart rate would be estimated to be around 220 minus 40, which is 180 beats per minute. So, during moderate intensity exercise, this person could expect to have a heart rate between 99 and 126 beats per minute (55 to 70 per cent of their maximum heart rate). However, this is just a rough estimate, and some people can have maximum heart rates more than 20 beats above or below that estimated for their age. So it’s a good idea to also use your perception of how hard the exercise is — the guide of being slightly breathless but able to hold a conversation is a good one.Beta-blockers and exerciseBeta-blockers are one type of medicine used to lower blood pressure as well as treat angina and certain heart rhythm disorders. They work by slowing down the rate at which the heart beats. People taking beta blockers should talk to their doctor about their planned exercise programme. Moderate intensity exercise is often recommended for people taking beta-blockers, but since the heart rate calculations described above do not apply to them, the best guide to determining a suitable exercise intensity is their perceived exertion.Measuring your heart rateIf you do not possess a heart rate monitor, an easy way to measure your heart rate is to count your pulse for 10 seconds then multiply this count by 6 to calculate your heart rate per minute. To find your pulse, locate either your carotid artery (found on the side of your neck, just under your jaw bone) or your radial artery (in your wrist at the base of your thumb). Then gently place your index and middle fingers over the artery, but don’t press too hard or you will stop the flow of blood in that artery and not be able to detect a pulse.Be aware that aiming for a target heart rate when exercising is a rough guide and may not work for some people. Older people who are physically fit may have a higher maximum heart rate than a younger, less fit person, and a higher maximum heart rate than that given by subtracting their age from 220.Progressing to greater levels of fitnessIf you are already active and getting 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week but want to attain a higher level of health and fitness, you will need to increase your aerobic exercise levels, either by exercising at a higher intensity and/or by doing more exercise.Vigorous aerobic exercise — exercising at 70 to 85 per cent of your maximum heart rate — will result in further fitness and health gains. As a guide, at this intensity you will be breathing hard and finding it difficult to talk in full sentences between breaths. This level of exercise is more strenuous and should only be contemplated if you are already accustomed to regular moderate intensity aerobic exercise. To prevent ‘overdoing it’, it is a good idea to alternate between moderate and vigorous exercise days with, for example, 30 or more minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise on 3 or 4 days a week, interspersed with days of 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise.For people undertaking high-level sports training, a qualified trainer is likely to develop an individualised programme that varies from the above guidelines with regard to the intensity (how hard), the duration (how long) and the frequency (how often) of the aerobic exercise sessions. This is because the main aim of their training is to improve their sporting performance - the associated health benefits that accompany this are a fortunate side benefit, rather than the main goal.A balanced fitness programmeFor people of all fitness levels, aerobic exercise should form part of a balanced exercise programme that also includes 2 to 3 sessions per week of exercise to increase muscle strength, e.g. resistance training; and some stretching and flexibility work, e.g. a basic stretching routine or attending a yoga class. Needless to say, healthy eating and plenty of rest will complete a well-rounded fitness programme.Aerobic exercise precautionsAppropriate aerobic exercise is recommended for almost everybody, regardless of age, but may need to be modified to ensure its suitability for people with existing health problems.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. The level and type of exercise may be adjusted to ensure that it can be undertaken safely and effectively.As 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 abandonment 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. When you do increase your level of aerobic exercise, increase only one component — the intensity, duration, or frequency of your aerobic exercise sessions — at a time.It’s never too late to startAn important health and fitness message is that people of all ages can benefit from regular aerobic exercise. And, if you are unfit, unhealthy or an older adult, you may have the most to gain from including it in your lifestyle. Last Reviewed: 24 March 2015
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