When comparing the results of the most recent National Runners’ Health Study with the National Walkers’ Health Study, researchers found that the energy used for moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease over the study’s six year period.
Sticking to a new fitness routine can be tough and sometimes you may be tempted to skip your workouts. While that’s completely normal, it can help you stay on track if you can easily remind yourself why you wanted to get in shape in the first place. Maybe you want to be able to keep up with your kids without getting out of breath, or perhaps you want to lower your cholesterol. Whatever it is that motivates you, write it down somewhere safe—like your phone. This way you can refer back to it when you need some extra motivation.
Though the risks of being sedentary far outweigh the risks of exercise, one should be prudent when beginning an aerobic exercise program. Safety guidelines from the ACSM state that individuals at low or moderate health risk can begin a moderate-intensity exercise plan without a medical exam or exercise stress test, whereas people at high risk should be evaluated by their doctor. You are at high risk if you have:
No study has been more conclusive about the role of lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) in preventing diabetes than the Diabetes Prevention Program. It was a study of more than 3,000 individuals at high risk for diabetes who lost 12-15 pounds and walked 150 minutes per week (five 30-minute walks per day) for three years. They reduced their risk of diabetes by 58%. That's significant considering there are 1 million new cases of diabetes diagnosed each year. Aerobic exercise can also improve insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body doesn't use insulin properly, and this condition can occur in individuals who do and do not have diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells in the body convert glucose (sugar) to energy. Many studies have shown the positive effects of exercise on insulin resistance. In one, 28 obese postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes did aerobic exercise for 16 weeks, three times per week, for 45-60 minutes, and their insulin sensitivity improved by 20%.
3. It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.
Add Weights: Another way to add intensity to a walking routine is to use weights. “Whether you're on the treadmill or you hop off on your ‘rest interval,’ you can add weight to keep your heart rate up and add some strength training into the mix,” says Crockett. “While you're walking on an incline, adding some dumbbell shoulder presses or dumbbell jabs can help you tone your arms and burn even more calories. [Or] hop off the treadmill after your fast interval and try some quick high repetition exercises, such as dumbbell squats, squat to press, weighted jumping jacks or weighted sit ups.”
A study conducted with 17,000 Harvard graduates showed that students who walked for at least 30 minutes every day lived longer than those who were sedentary (17). Walking may or may not activate the telomerase enzyme, which is responsible for maintaining DNA integrity, an important factor in aging, but it helps prevent many age-related problems (18).
As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. If you can't set aside that much time, try several short sessions of activity throughout the day. Any amount of activity is better than none at all. Even small amounts of physical activity are helpful, and accumulated activity throughout the day adds up to provide health benefit.
Classes are generally rated as beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Choose the level that fits your condition. It's no fun taking an advanced class if you're a beginner. It will be hard and frustrating and you won't enjoy the experience. Watch the class or speak with the instructor to help you decide what's right for you. Sometimes it comes down to the class time that fits your schedule, but just be sure to not get in too far over your head.
After World War II, non-organized, individualistic, health-oriented physical and recreational activities, such as jogging, began to become popular. The Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans, developed by Dr. Bill Orban and published in 1961, helped to launch modern fitness culture. There was a running boom in the 1970s, inspired by the Olympics.
Relax your shoulders and bend your elbows. Bring your arms up to a 90-degree angle, but no more. Straight arms can lead to swelling or numbness of the fingers. Swing your arms naturally with each step, and should be bent at the elbow at a 90? angle. Your elbows should be close to the torso, with the hands going no higher than the center of the chest on the forward swing, or past the back of the hip on the back swing. Faster arms will make faster feet.
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.
How can you know if you are working in the right intensity? Using an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) chart can help you to determine the appropriate intensity. The scale uses a 1 to 10 rating system. One is very light, such as walking to the refrigerator for a glass of milk. Ten would be a very significant level, representing maximal exercise. Ten would be indicative of not being able to take another step without fear of collapse. It is not recommended for anyone to work at a rate of 10 without strict supervision by a healthcare provider. Moderate intensity is the level of exercise that is most recommended, and can be determined by a rating between a 3 and a 5.
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.