Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. Just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. It can also reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers. Unlike some other forms of exercise, walking is free and doesn’t require any special equipment or training.
1. It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.
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.
An analysis of studies on walking showed it improves aerobic fitness - which is technically the ability of the heart to get oxygen to our muscles and how effectively our muscles use that oxygen. But to be effective, walking needs to be of at least moderate intensity, which means an intensity where you’re able to notice your breathing but can carry on a conversation without noticeable pauses between words. For many, this is a brisk walk.
The best way to warm up is to walk slowly. Start off each walk at a leisurely pace to give your muscles time to warm up, and then pick up the speed. Afterwards, gently stretch your leg muscles – particularly your calves and front and back thighs. Stretches should be held for about 20 seconds. If you feel any pain, ease off the stretch. Don’t bounce or jolt, or you could overstretch muscle tissue and cause microscopic tears, which lead to muscle stiffness and tenderness.
A major component of rehabilitation of children with MD is to prevent or slow functional losses. Aerobic activity is at the heart of improving and maintaining physical functioning. Despite the weakness, fatigue, loss of joint range of motion, and orthopedic changes, maintaining aerobic activity must be part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program. Studies have shown that aerobic capacity can be increased, improving functional abilities (Wright et al., 1996; Taivassalo et al., 1999). Continuous low to moderate resistive and aerobic exercises to promote fitness are suggested (Ansved, 2003). However, few if any studies have evaluated the long-term benefit or risks. Cardiac disease is one of the most common causes of death in patients with DMD. Potentially, cardiomyopathies and conduction abnormalities pose serious risks for patients with MD during aerobic and/or resistance training. The American Academy of Pediatrics (2005) recommended that, after the confirmation of DMD or Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD), a referral for cardiac evaluation with a specialist be made. The cardiac evaluation should include a complete history and physical, ECG, and transthoracic echocardiography (TTE). A complete cardiac evaluation should be completed every other year. In addition, starting at the age of 10 years or after the onset of cardiac signs/symptoms, cardiac evaluations should be completed annually. Specifically, symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, and respiratory abnormalities should be identified and treated.
Aerobic training increases the rate at which oxygen inhaled is passed on from the lungs and heart to the bloodstream to be used by the muscles. Aerobically fit athletes can exercise longer and harder before feeling tired. During exercise they have a slower heart rate, slower breathing rate, less muscle fatigue, and more energy. After exercise, recovery happens more quickly. Aerobic fitness can be measured in a laboratory setting while exercising on a treadmill or bicycle. This is called maximal oxygen uptake or VO2 max.
By paying just a little attention to your posture as you walk, you can help tone your abs and reduce your waistline. Concentrate on straightening your spine to create space between your ears and shoulders, relax your shoulders and pull in your stomach and pelvic floor. This helps your shoulders naturally rotate and works the abdominal muscles. And swinging your arms (backwards and forwards as you walk) faster not only increases your speed but also tones your arms, shoulders and upper back. So there’s a double benefit here, by thinking a little about how you walk you can improve your posture and get a better workout too!
Meta-analyses and reviews are useful for getting an overall sense of the many studies of aerobic exercise and BP. A 2007 meta-analysis of the effects of endurance exercise on BP found that exercise significantly reduced resting and daytime ambulatory BP.38 A more recent review (2010) found again that regular aerobic exercise lowered clinical BP.39 In both the 2007 meta-analysis and the 2010 review, aerobic exercise appeared to reduce BP more in patients with hypertension compared with those without hypertension. Five small studies in women systematically reviewed in 2011 showed a nonsignificant change in BP in response to aerobic interval training of walking. Walking programs appeared to reduce BP in some 9/27 trials reviewed in 2010. Larger trials with increased intensity or frequency of exercise for longer periods tended to be the ones that showed a significant effect.40 The authors concluded that further high-quality trials are needed. The most comprehensive and latest meta-analysis of all types of exercise clearly demonstrates the ability of aerobic exercise to lower BP within 8 to 12 weeks.41 In 105 trials, endurance exercise significantly lowered BP by 3.5/2.5 mm Hg. The effect was much larger in patients with preexisting hypertension (−8.3/6.8 mm Hg).