“Cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in America,” says Dan G. Tripps, PhD, the chief operating officer and director of exercise science for Speck Health, a lifestyle medicine practice in Seattle. “Associated with physical inactivity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking, cardiovascular disease accounts for approximately a quarter of all U.S. deaths. (3)
Walking can also increase your lung capacity. When you walk, you breathe in more oxygen as compared to when you are stationary. This exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide at a larger volume can help increase your lung capacity, thereby increasing your stamina and exercise performance (16). The best part is, you don’t even have to run. A medium-paced 60-minute walk (with breaks, if you need them!) can do the trick.
And when equal amounts of energy were expended (meaning walkers spent more time exercising), one study found runners still lost more weight.Greater weight loss from running than walking during a 6.2-yr prospective follow-up. Williams PT. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 2013, Nov.;45(4):1530-0315. In this study, not only did the runners begin with lower weights than the walkers; they also had a better chance of maintaining their BMI and waist circumference.
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It is increasingly obvious that one of the best ways to maintain good health is through physical activity. Regular participation in exercise has been shown to be helpful in the prevention of such killers as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Exercise also helps to control weight. (According to the latest research, one out of three Americans is obese.)
As well as heart disease, regular fitness walking can impact on the risk of developing type two diabetes, asthma and some cancers. Studies suggest regular exercise such as walking can reduce risk of diabetes by up to 60 per cent. In fact, those who are active have around a 20 per cent lower risk of developing cancer of the colon, breast and womb than those who are less active.
“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.”
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.
Walking is one of the simplest ways to get fit and maintain heart health. The American Heart Association's guidelines for physical activity indicate that healthy adults should aim to walk a minimum of 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes every weekday. Walking seven days per week will burn more calories, and you can add challenges to your walking workout that make it more of a cardiovascular or strengthening exercise.
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%.
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.

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Getting a solid eight hours snoozing in the sack is one of the most important things you can do for your health. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. Thankfully a brisk walk is basically Ambien, minus the pill (and the scary sleep-walking stories). In a large meta-analysis of sleep studies, researchers found that regular walkers had longer and better quality sleep. And for those unlucky few who still had insomnia? Walking helped reduce the number of sleepless nights they experienced. Find out which side of the road is safest for walking and why.
The second recommendation is from the American College of Sports Medicine. The ACSM recommends 20-60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity (biking, walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, etc.) three to five times a week, at 60%-90% of maximum heart rate, and two to three days of resistance training. This is a more formal, "workout" recommendation, although you can also accumulate the more intense workout in bouts of 10-15 minutes throughout the day if you like. Follow this recommendation and your fitness and your health will improve.
Improper digestion can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and even colon cancer. Therefore, it is very important that you keep your digestive system healthy. Apart from maintaining good food habits and drinking water, you should also walk to improve digestion. Walking after meals is great. It helps you reduce weight and also supports your digestive system (11) (12).

Breathing increases during aerobic exercise to bring oxygen into your body. Once inside your body the oxygen is (1) processed by the lungs, (2) transferred to the bloodstream where it is carried by red blood cells to the heart, and then (3) pumped by the heart to the exercising muscles via the circulatory system, where it is used by the muscle to produce energy.
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.
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.
Greater stroke volume means the heart doesn't have to pump as fast to meet the demands of exercise. Fewer beats and more stroke volume mean greater efficiency. Think about a pump emptying water out of a flooded basement. The pump works better and lasts longer if it can pump larger volumes of water with each cycle than if it has to pump faster and strain to get rid of the water. High stroke volume is why athletes' hearts don't pump as fast during exercise and why they have such low resting heart rates; sometimes as low as 40 beats per minute, whereas the average is 60-80 beats per minutes.
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