Being active has been shown to have a positive effect on the way our brains work, and with the latest figures showing dementia affects one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80 it’s worth bearing in mind that regular exercise reduces that risk by up to 40 per cent. What’s more, older people who walk six miles (9.65 kilometres) or more per week can avoid brain shrinkage, preserving the memory for longer.
There is also an ever increasing array of affordable home fitness products available, such as steps, skipping ropes (remember to put your breakables a safe distance away), rebounders (rebounding is considered by NASA to be the “most efficient and effective exercise yet devised by man”), dance mats that you can use with your games console and exercise videos so that you can workout with your favourite celebrity.
Observe basic safety while walking outside. Watch for traffic all around you. Always walk on sidewalks or on the left side of the street facing traffic if there is no sidewalk. Carry an ID and a cell phone or change for a pay phone. Use caution if wearing headphones (perhaps use just one earpiece so you can hear traffic and other noises around you). Make yourself visible in low-light situations by wearing reflective gear, such as vests with reflective tape are especially visible.
Taking a 30-minute walk a day is kind of like that proverbial apple: There's a good chance it'll keep the doctor away. From helping you lose weight and de-stress to lowering your blood pressure and reducing your risk of many chronic diseases—going for regular walks is one of the best and easiest things you can do for your health, says Melina B. Jampolis, MD, author of The Doctor on Demand Diet. "Walking is the number one exercise I recommend to most of my patients because it is very easy to do, requires nothing but a pair of tennis shoes, and has tremendous mental and physical benefits," she says. Here's what you can expect when you start walking for just 30 minutes every day, most days of the week.
This one may seem obvious, but it's certainly a happy benefit for those who start walking regularly, says Dr. Jampolis. "As you continue to walk, you may notice your pants begin to fit more loosely around your midsection, even if the number on the scale isn't moving much," she says. "That's because regular walking can help improve your body's response to insulin, which can help reduce belly fat." Ariel Iasevoli, a personal trainer at Crunch gyms in New York City, adds that walking every day is one of the most effective low-impact ways to mobilize fat and positively alter body composition. "Daily walking increases metabolism by burning extra calories and by preventing muscle loss, which is particularly important as we get older," says Iasevoli. The best part? You don't have to slog it out on a treadmill at the gym to see these benefits. "One of my clients reduced her body fat by 2% in just one month by walking home from work each day, which was just under a mile," she says.
Your heart beats approximately 60-80 times per minute at rest, 100,000 times a day, more than 30 million times per year, and about 2.5 billion times in a 70-year lifetime! Every beat of your heart sends a volume of blood (called stroke volume -- more about that later), along with oxygen and many other life-sustaining nutrients, circulating through your body. The average healthy adult heart pumps about 5 liters of blood per minute.
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.
The list of studies that show that aerobic exercise prevents or reduces the occurrence of cardiovascular disease is so long that it would take this entire article and probably five others just like it to review all of the research. One of the most important is one of the earliest. In a study of more than 13,000 men and women, it was shown that the least fit individuals had much higher rates of cardiovascular disease than fit individuals -- in some cases, the risk was twice as high. Aerobic exercise works in many ways to prevent heart disease; two of the most important are by reducing blood pressure and allowing blood vessels to be more compliant (more compliant means that they become less stiff and it's less likely for fat to accumulate and clog up the vessels). Results like these have been proven over and over again.
“Cardiovascular health is defined by your capacity to exert yourself,” says Nicole Belkin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/ Columbia University Medical Center. “Regular physical activity trains the cardiovascular system to expand the level of demand and increase its capacity. This results in increased blood flow and blood volume to the heart.”
But once you could do it instinctively, I can’t imagine why you’d go back to your regular walk. This is not a fitness walk; this is an everyday walk that happens to make you fit. As Hall lists the evidence in its favour, with the zeal of a person who loves to solve problems, WalkActive sounds further and further away from the amble, the mosey, the saunter.
Becoming taut is all in the hip lift. “You should imagine you’re putting on a very expensive pair of tights,” Hall said, “inching up each leg very carefully, ending at the hips.” I’m actually learning quite a bit about how to put on tights, but still baffled about hip lifts. “May I touch you?” she says. Sure, I say. She physically lifts my hips up, away from my legs. Once I know what it should feel like, I can do it myself, but only if I think extremely hard.
Your heart gets stronger and pumps more blood with each beat (larger stroke volume). Elite athletes, as I just mentioned, can have stroke volumes more than twice as high as average individuals. But it's not just that. Conditioned hearts also have greater diameter and mass (the heart's a muscle too and gets bigger when you train it), and they pump efficiently enough to allow for greater filling time, which is a good thing because it means that more blood fills the chambers of the heart before they pump so that more blood gets pumped with each beat.
For a walking surface grade between -5% to +5% inclusive, this walking calorie burn calculator is based on equations (shown below) derived by ShapeSense.com from experimental data displayed in Figure 3 of the study titled "Energy Cost of Running," by R Margaria, P Cerretelli, P Aghemo, and G Sassi (note that the data on walking energy expenditure was originally printed in the study titled "Sulla fisiologia, e specialmente sul consumo energetico, della marcia e della corsa a varie velocita ed inclinazioni del terreno," by R. Margaria). The experimental data gathered by Margaria measured calorie burn of subjects walking at various speeds and on various surface grades. It was found that there is a non-linear relationship between walking speed and rate of calorie burn, as opposed to calorie burn while running, which displays a linear relationship between speed and rate of calorie burn.
On the other hand, some people like to know with more precision how their body is doing during exercise. If that's the case for you, then taking your heart rate during exercise and using a target heart rate training zone might be just the ticket. Target heart rate zones range anywhere from 50% to 100% of your maximum heart rate (your maximum heart rate is based on your age). Aerobic exercise is anything less than 85%, and anaerobic exercise is anything above that. A nice starting point for a sedentary individual is somewhere in the range from 50% to 65% (you can always increase as you get more fit) and 65% to 85% for more conditioned individuals.
“You can just take this as blanket permission to touch me whenever you like,” I consider saying. It sounds a bit rude. I toy with some other formulations – “sure, mi casa es su casa” – and in the throes of that mental effort, my walk disintegrates entirely. Not only can I not do the new walk, I’ve forgotten how to do my old walk. When you first start to follow this technique, Hall’s advice is to do three 10-minute walks every day; any longer than that, and you won’t be able to concentrate.
It all starts with breathing. The average healthy adult inhales and exhales about 7 to 8 liters of air per minute. Once you fill your lungs, the oxygen in the air (air contains approximately 20% oxygen) is filtered through small branches of tubes (called bronchioles) until it reaches the alveoli. The alveoli are microscopic sacs where oxygen diffuses (enters) into the blood. From there, it's a beeline direct to the heart.
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OK, so maybe you won’t have the ability to see through walls but you can protect your vision as you age by taking a daily walk, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers found that people who did regular aerobic activity had healthier eyeballs and were less likely to suffer from problems like retinal degeneration and age-related vision loss. So even if you aren’t Superman, you’ll still have super sight. Find out what your walking style says about your personality.
“While I would love to say that walking can be just as effective of a workout as running, I’m not going to lie to you. In fairness, the two really shouldn’t be compared against each other,” says John Ford, certified exercise physiologist, who runs JKF Fitness & Health in New York City. “Running, due to larger muscle recruitment, greater forces exerted and faster motion capability, will always have the proverbial leg up on walking."
The greatest number of walkers walk just to walk, suggests Mark Fenton, editor-at-large for Walking magazine. “They like being outdoors,” he says. “They like getting some exercise and improving their health. At the other end of the scale are racewalkers, those hip-swinging, elbow-pumping, glory-seeking individuals who have as a goal a place on the Olympic team, or at least a medal at their local walking race.