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If you currently praise coffee for keeping your digestive system going strong, get ready to start thanking your morning walk instead. That's because a regular walking routine can greatly improve gastric mobility, says Tara Alaichamy, DPT, a physical therapist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. "One of the very first things an abdominal surgery patient is required to do is to walk because it utilizes core and abdominal muscles, encouraging movement in our GI system," she says. (Check out these 7 things your poop says about your health.)
Your heart rate rises during aerobic exercise. It can rise from 70 beats per minutes (bpm) at rest to as high as 170 bpm or even higher during exercise, depending on the intensity of the exercise, your fitness level, your age, and other factors. Whether you're training is aerobic or anaerobic is determined by the intensity of your workout, and monitoring the intensity is the key to know which one you're doing.
Both recommendations include aerobic exercise, and your health and fitness will improve if you follow either. Choose the Surgeon General's lifestyle recommendation if you are unable or unwilling to follow the ACSM workout recommendation, and stick with the ACSM recommendation if you're already putting in time at the gym or you like the buzz of vigorous exercise. Of course, incorporating lifestyle activity and formal workouts into your exercise plans will give you the best of both worlds.
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).
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).
Long walks help you clear your head, pace your thoughts and calm you down, figuratively speaking. The benefits of walking seem so obvious that they're rarely discussed. We forget how it's great exercise that also helps you tone your legs, shed the extra weight and doesn't need you to have an exclusive gym membership. It quickens your heart beat, circulating more blood and oxygen to your muscles and your organs, including the brain. Experts suggest that brisk walking for 30 minutes at a moderate speed can help you burn 150 to 200 calories.

According to a study by the Harvard Medical School, walking for just 2.5 hours a week, which is 21 minutes a day can cut the risk of heart disease by 30%. In fact, it even goes on to say that walking regularly could save Americans over 100 billion dollars a year in health care costs. A 2009 issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch reported that walking is seriously underrated. Two scientists sifted through 4295 articles published on walking between 1997 and 2007. 18 of these met their high standards for quality. Each of these studies collected information about the participants walking habits and cardiovascular risk factors such as age, smoking and alcohol use. The participants were followed for 11.3 years and during this time their cardiovascular events and deaths were recorded. When scientists compiled this data, they found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% and cuts the risk of an early death by 32%.


Every session of aerobic exercise should include a warm-up and cool-down. The warm-up period should not include static stretching, but should instead be a gradual increase in pace and intensity of the exercise. This allows for the body to increase blood flow to the muscles, and decreases the likelihood of a muscle or joint injury. The warm-up should last between 5 and 10 minutes. The cool-down session should last a similar amount of time as the warm-up, with the pace gradually decreasing. Stretching exercises would be appropriate after aerobic exercise.
Mileage: Many guidelines give recommendations on time and intensity, so distance may not necessarily be a factor. On the other hand, some walking events and campaigns with specific distance requirements have been known to be very motivating. For example, Corbin says children have loved digital pedometer programs, which have enabled them to keep track of steps during the day. Students who take a certain number of steps a day for at least five days a week for several weeks receive a President's Council Activity Award. Volkssporting groups have also given honors to walkers of all ages that have achieved particular distances.
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