Mental health got me walking in the first instance. I was in my late twenties, and beginning to understand that the love of my life (London) was also my chief tormentor. The stress of the city and the stress of my job as a journalist, got the better of me and I became claustrophobic, which meant I could no longer stand to travel around London’s endless sprawl by Underground. (I’ve since discovered this is incredibly common in Londoners, and God, how transparent we all are! The thing that ferries us to work, aka ground zero on much of our stress; the thing that speeds relentlessly round our city - its logistical arteries - is also the thing we’re likely to fall apart on, and ultimately: resist and refuse.) So I ditched the tube for the bus.
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.
Walking is an accessible and easy way for us all to get more active. Brisk walking that raises your heart rate and makes you warm and slightly breathless is a great form of aerobic exercise. Doing this regularly helps you to get fitter so you will find it easier to be more active and get tired less quickly. You may feel more tired in the first week or two after you start. But if you keep it up, you’ll probably find you soon have more energy than when you were inactive.
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4. Better memory and cognitive function. A clinical trial of older adults in Japan published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2015 found that after 12 weeks, men and women in a prescribed daily walking exercise group had significantly greater improvements in memory and executive function (the ability to pay focused attention, to switch among various tasks, and to hold multiple items in working memory) compared with those in a control group who were told just to carry on with their usual daily routine.

As you get fit, you burn less calories doing the exact same workout. Shift your walking workout into a higher gear by doing interval training. Start at a warmup pace for a couple minutes and then walk at a brisk pace. Every five minutes, increase your pace to a sprint level, either by speed-walking, running or skipping rope. Maintain this burst of speed for 30 seconds. Return to a slow walk for a minute and then back to your vigorous pace before the next sprint. You dramatically boost your heart rate during the sprints, and it stays raised during the recovery period, resulting in more calories burned.
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.
Another plan I like is the five-minute out, five-minute back plan. Just like it sounds, you walk for five minutes from your starting point, turn around, and walk back. It's simple and doable for almost everyone. It's a change in your activity behavior even though it's not all that much, and you can increase as you get more used to it. From five minutes you could go to seven and a half out, seven and a half back, a total of 15 minutes just like that. And you can keep your eye on 15 out, 15 back, and there you go meeting the Surgeon General's recommendation of 30 minutes. If you're feeling ambitious, you can add some abdominal crunches and push-ups once you get back. For push-ups, if you can't do a standard one on the floor, modify them by leaning against a wall, leaning against a table, or on your knees on the floor. The lower you go the harder they are. Start with two to three sets of crunches and push-ups, 12-15 repetitions, three to four days a week. As they get easier, you can increase the intensity of crunches by going slower or putting your legs in the air with your knees bent. As push-ups get easier, you can go to the next lower level (for example, from wall to table to on your knees on the floor).
Can you up those numbers? The more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn, no matter the activity—that’s because it takes more energy to move more weight. If you’re specifically looking to up calorie burn, adding a 20-pound weighted vest would up your calorie burn to 8.7 and 15.1 per minute for walking and running, respectively. It’s simple physics: “The majority of calories burned in running [or walking] comes from supporting body weight while moving up and down,” says Hunter. “With more weight, there will be a greater energy cost in doing this due to a greater gravitational force.”
Pedometers also work well for people who simply don't have time or don't take time to walk consistently as a form of exercise. By tracking the number of steps you take each day simply doing your regular daily activities, you may find that you're getting in plenty of exercise. Some experts recommend 10,000 steps a day. Others say this would be an eventual target.

These changes yield major heart health benefits, with research published in the American Journal of Cardiology showing that aerobic training is the most efficient method of exercise for improving cardiovascular health. (2) Aerobic exercise can help lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, improve your immune function, and lower your blood pressure, Jonesco says.


“I want to start working out but I hate running.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this from friends, former clients and family. It seems that running is the first thing that comes to mind for a lot of people who are looking to lose weight. While our success stories prove that running is a great tool to get in shape, it’s not the only option.

Which one you choose is a personal choice. They are not intended to compete with each other but rather to provide options and maybe even complement each other. For instance, the Surgeon General's recommendation may be more practical for individuals who are unwilling, or unable, to adopt the more formal ACSM recommendation. Of course, there's no downside to working out regularly with aerobic exercise and also becoming more physically active as per the Surgeon General (take more stairs, mow the lawn by hand, park far away from the store and walk), so combining them might be a good decision.


1. Walk as much as you can. The University of Warwick study compared people with at least one sign of metabolic syndrome—a group of risk factors (high blood pressure, fat around the waist, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides and cholesterol) for heart disease—to those with no risk factors. They found that those who got the least activity had the most risk factors, and those who walked the most—accumulating at least 15,000 steps per day—had healthy BMIs, smaller waists, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and better blood sugar control.
Here’s what’s happening in your body when you’re running and walking: “Muscle action that propels you from point A to B requires the utilization of a thing called ATP,” explains Janet Hamilton, an exercise physiologist and running coach with RunningStrong. “Your body stores only a limited amount of ATP (enough for only a few seconds of activity), so it needs to replenish that supply, and it does so by metabolizing your stored fuels (glycogen and fat). The process of making useable energy (ATP) from stored fuel (glycogen and fat) is dependent on how much you need and how quickly you need it.” So the more intense the activity, the greater the demand for fuel—and since walking is less intense and demanding than running, it doesn’t demand that ATP be produced at the same rate.
Sidelined by sneezing, sniffling and itchy, watery eyes, thanks to all the pollen in the air? Your instinct may be to close all the windows and hide until winter, but your instinct might be wrong. According to a Thai study, researchers found that walking or running—even for just 15 minutes—can reduce sneezing, itching, congestion and runny nose by up to 70 percent. Learn the speed you should walk to breathe in less pollution.

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.


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Most activities can be performed aerobically or anaerobically. For example, you could walk briskly on the treadmill at 3.5 miles per hour and feel warm and slightly out of breath (aerobic), or you could walk very briskly at 4.5 miles per hour and feel very out of breath (anaerobic). The same is true for biking, swimming, dancing, or virtually any other activity. The intensity of the workout determines whether an activity is aerobic or anaerobic, and all you need to do is pace yourself to elicit the type of training you desire.
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I walked along my bus route, assuming that sooner or later, my arrival at another bus stop would coincide with the arrival of my bus. But it didn’t. So I walked some more, eventually making it to work, a mere 20 minutes later than I normally would have, calmer than I might have anticipated, and feeling like I’d accomplished something vaguely mammoth before 10am. I also felt liberated. Who wants to be enslaved to their public transport systems, beholden to the schedules, the whims and capriciousness. Suddenly, I had another option.
If it’s too hot to walk or run, swimming can be a cool way to get fit. It’s a low-cost workout for the whole body especially the muscles of the back, shoulder and arms and improves flexibility as well. It’s a good way to exercise if you’re overweight, pregnant or have joint problems as the water helps support your weight and can reduce the pressure on your joints. The risk of injury to muscles, ligaments or joints is also low.
All that oxygen being pumped by the blood is important. You may be familiar with the term "oxygen consumption." In science, it's labeled VO2, or volume of oxygen consumed. It's the amount of oxygen the muscles extract, or consume from the blood, and it's expressed as ml/kg/minute (milliliters per kilogram of body weight). Muscles are like engines that run on fuel (just like an automobile that runs on fuel); only our muscles use fat and carbohydrates instead of gasoline. Oxygen is a key player because, once inside the muscle, it's used to burn fat and carbohydrate for fuel to keep our engines running. The more efficient our muscles are at consuming oxygen, the more fuel we can burn, the more fit we are, and the longer we can exercise.
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