The lyrics are from Vanessa Carlton's 2002 Top 40 song, "A Thousand Miles." The mileage, of course, is figurative, but what if someone did decide to walk a tiny fraction of that distance for love, for charity, for errands, or for exercise? Whatever the reason, it would probably delight many health professionals who have been touting physical activity as one way to trim the nation's burgeoning waistline.
Invest in good shoes. Since these are the only expense and equipment you'll need, pay attention to the fit and quality of your shoes. Shoes should fit when you try them on without any areas of pinching or pressure that could cause blisters or calluses. Wear the type of socks you'll wear when walking when you purchase your shoes, and remember that you'll likely need a larger-sized shoe than you normally wear if you plan to wear thick socks. Shoes should have good arch support and a slightly elevated heel with stiff material to support the heel when walking and prevent wobbling. Trekking poles or other accessories may also help, depending upon the climate and terrain where you'll be walking.
The following fitness routines take a 9-week ramped approach to your workouts. The first routine adds a few fitness walks into your workouts; it’s ideal for those just working into higher level exercise. The second routine adds 1 additional fitness walking day per week, and the third routine has you fitness walking 5 days a week. Do the first routine for a week or two and then, if you feel comfortable, ramp up to the second routine and then the third.
These electrons have powerful antioxidant effects that can protect your body from inflammation and its many well-documented health consequences. For example, one scientific review published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health concluded that grounding (walking barefoot on the earth) could improve a number of health conditions, including the following:14
You know how sometimes it takes a glass of wine or a square (or three) of dark chocolate to blunt the edge of a rough day? Well, going for a walk is a zero-calorie strategy with the same benefits, says Dr. Jampolis. "Research shows that regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you'll experience a decrease in anger and hostility," she says. What's more, when you make your walks social—you stride with, say, your partner, a neighbor, or a good friend—that interaction helps you feel connected, says Dr. Jampolis, which boosts mood. Finally, walking outdoors exposes you to natural sunlight, which can help stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—making it a potential antidote for the winter blues, says Dr. Jampolis.
Select an activity with a high probability that you will stick with it. It doesn't necessarily have to be fun, it just has to be something realistic that you are willing and able to do. You're probably setting yourself up to fail if you work 12 hours a day, take care of three young children, and still plan to use a treadmill at a gym that's a 45-minute commute from where you work or live. Instead, choose something more convenient. I love the "five minutes out, five minutes back" plan to get started. Just like it sounds, you walk out for five minutes at a moderate intensity (aerobic exercise), turn around, and walk back. That's it. Ten minutes of walking and off you go about your day. If you feel ambitious, start with seven and a half or even 10 minutes out and back, and add some abdominal crunches if you like when you finish. Keep in mind that you can always add more later on. The important thing is to get started.
One way to ensure success is to build some competition into your fastest walks. Or train for a “running” race where you start in the back and don’t worry about your time compared to those around you. “You don’t need to try to win,” Fenton advises. “Merely being part of a racing environment with large numbers of other fitness-minded individuals will guarantee that you get a good workout.” Most runners consider walkers their equals, regardless of when they cross the finish line.
Regular cardio (at any speed) is part of a healthy lifestyle. But, lap for lap, running burns about 2.5 times more calories than walking. Running may also help control appetite, so runners may lose more weight than walkers no matter how far the walkers go. Still, running isn't for everyone, and going full-speed might increase injury risk. Adding weights or an incline can help pick up the intensity while maintaining a slower pace.
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.
Mitochondria inside the muscle increase in number and activity. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells. They do all the heavy-duty work to keep you moving. They use the oxygen to burn the fat and carbohydrate that makes you go. The good news is that they increase in number and activity, by as much as 50%, in just a matter of days to weeks in response to regular aerobic exercise in adults of all ages.
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%.
“This has all been scientifically proven,” says Hall. “Dr Darren James, research fellow at South Bank University, has done a study showing all this. WalkActive significantly and statistically improves your posture, increases your walking speed by up to 24%, reduces joint impact, joint stress at the knee and at the ankle and improves your body shape.” It is, unmistakably, a fitness programme, as in, you would undertake it for the same reasons as an aerobics class, to lose weight, or at the very least, redistribute it in a more sightly way. I did several 10-minute walks, and while never out of breath, was certainly more tired at the end than I would normally have been.
How much good does it do you to get up and walk for a few minutes? Don't be discouraged from walking if you think the number of calories burned is too small. The benefits go beyond burning calories. Simply reducing your sitting time will help keep your muscles, joints, blood circulation, and bones in good working order. By walking more and sitting less throughout the day, you'll burn more calories, reduce your health risks, and do your body good.
According to a study done at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, a moderately-paced walk for about 30 to 45 minutes daily can increase the number of immune system cells in your body and over a period of time, it can have really remarkable effect on your body's ability to fight disease. To be more specific, walking at least 20 minutes a day could reduce the risk of getting sicker by almost 43%.
Walking helps you get fitter and means your body gets better at using oxygen, so you find it easier to be more active and tire less quickly. Getting active releases feel-good hormones known as endorphins into the bloodstream, and getting that natural high reduces stress and anxiety and ultimately helps to build self-esteem. That’s got to be a good thing!
You can use the cue "warm and slightly out of breath" to gauge your aerobic activity, or you can get more precise and use heart rate. I recommend the heart rate reserve method for calculating a target heart rate. The formula and an example of the method for someone 27 years old, assuming a resting heart rate of 70 beats per minute (bpm), and a training range of 70%, may be found below. Aerobic exercise falls in the range from 40% to 85%. You can plug in your own values to find your aerobic range.
Bone density may not be one of the most exciting health benefits of walking, but it’s an important one. People with stronger bones avoid osteoporosis and all the problems that come with it like fractures, disability, and spine shrinkage (seriously, you can get shorter). And the best way to get strong, healthy bones is by doing weight-bearing exercises like running, dancing and, yes, walking, according to a large study done by Oxford. But when it comes to bones, it’s definitely use it or lose it: To keep your bones strong you have to keep exercising. The researchers found that adults who walked regularly had better bone density throughout their lives than their inactive friends. Find out which common walking mistake causes 11,000 injuries every year.
Surgeon General: The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes or more of accumulated moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days per week to improve health and fitness. "Accumulated" means you can do it in shorter bouts throughout the day (for example, 10- or 15-minute intervals throughout the day), and "moderate intensity" means you feel warm and slightly out of breath when you do it. You can read more about the Surgeon General's "lifestyle" recommendation at: www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/sgr.htm.
So where do you start? “The right place to start with walking intervals will depend on your current fitness level, but here's a treadmill interval template to test out and see what adjustments you need to make,” says Spraul. “Start by walking for 5 minutes at a comfortable speed with no incline to get warmed up. Once you're done there, increase the incline to 5 percent for 3 minutes (no need to increase the speed when you're first starting out). After those 3 minutes are up, return to 0 incline for 1 minute of rest, while keeping the same speed. Repeat this for 3-5 rounds, depending on how you're feeling. Then you can adjust as needed: To add difficulty, you can increase the ‘work’ time that you spend on the incline, decrease the time you spend ‘resting’ at 0 incline or increase the pace of each phase. Find what works for you, and slowly increase your difficulty over time to keep making progress!”