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For the record, yes, walking is a legit way to be physically active. “Like many cardiovascular exercises or activities, walking at an appropriate intensity can help strengthen your heart and make it more efficient, burn some extra calories, improve respiratory functions, and elevate your mood through the release of endorphins,” says Doug Sklar, a NASM-certified personal trainer and founder of New York City fitness training studio PhilanthroFIT.
Cooper himself defines aerobic exercise as the ability to use the maximum amount of oxygen during exhaustive work. Cooper describes some of the major health benefits of aerobic exercise, such as gaining more efficient lungs by maximizing breathing capacity, thereby increasing ability to ventilate more air in a shorter period of time. As breathing capacity increases, one is able to extract oxygen more quickly into the blood stream, increasing elimination of carbon dioxide. With aerobic exercise the heart becomes more efficient at functioning, and blood volume, hemoglobin and red blood cells increase, enhancing the ability of the body to transport oxygen from the lungs into the blood and muscles. Metabolism will change and enable consumption of more calories without putting on weight. Aerobic exercise can delay osteoporosis as there is an increase in muscle mass, a loss of fat and an increase in bone density. With these variables increasing, there is a decrease in likelihood of diabetes as muscles use sugars better than fat. One of the major benefits of aerobic exercise is that body weight may decrease slowly; it will only decrease at a rapid pace if there is a calorie restriction, therefore reducing obesity rates.[19]
The question of BP lowering with aerobic exercise in type 2 diabetics has been studied. In the Early Activity in Type 2 Diabetes (ACTID) trial, 593 newly diagnosed diabetics were randomized to use of a pedometer in a program that included intense counseling or standard or intense dietary advice.46 There was no difference in SBP or DBP after 6 or 12 months, even though the participants using pedometers increased their steps by 17% on average. Whether the exercise was merely of too low a “dose” to be effective is unclear. There may be some male-female differences in BP response to aerobic exercise, with women exhibiting BP lowering with resistance compared with aerobic exercise and men responding similarly to both types of exercise.47 The 2013 AHA Scientific Statement recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per day most days of the week.2 The authors assigned dynamic aerobic exercise a Class I, level of evidence A recommendation in those for whom it is not contraindicated. Our review of the evidence since 2013, as well as that from another group, confirm these recommendations.41,48 Whether or not high versus moderate (or interval) intensity training is optimal for BP-lowering as well as other aspects of the dose-response effect (i.e., ideal duration of cumulative exercise per week) and the potential impact of different types of aerobic activity requires further investigation.
One program created by Dr. Hiroshi Nose and colleagues at the Shinshu University Graduate School of Medicine in Matsumoto, Japan consists of repeated intervals of three minutes of fast walking, aiming for an exertion level of about six or seven on a scale of one to 10, followed by three minutes of slow strolling. As reported by The New York Times:13
There’s no need to try to squeeze in all of your steps in one shot. In fact, you may get more benefit if you spread them out throughout the day. If you often get stuck at your desk for hours on end during your workday, try setting a reminder for every hour, and spend 15 minutes walking. If you’re able to repeat this five times a day, you may reach your 10,000 step goal before you leave work!
Walking helps to improve your heart health. Irish scientists have reported that walking is the best exercise for sedentary individuals, especially adults, to reduce the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases (2).In another study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, scientists confirmed that men and women of 65 years of age or older, who walked for at least 4 hours every week, were at less risk of cardiovascular disease (3). So, make sure to walk for 4 hours or more a week to keep heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke at bay.
It doesn't take all that much aerobic exercise to accrue lots of fitness and health benefits. There are two physical activity recommendations to choose from in the United States. One is the Surgeon General's "lifestyle" recommendation, where you can accumulate activity and incorporate it into your day (a nice way to save time for busy people), and then there's the formal "workout" recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
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).
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