Running isn’t for everyone. Neither are cycling and swimming. Those are great ways to exercise, but they come with logistical and physical requirements that might not suit your lifestyle.
Walking, on the other hand, might be the simplest and most accessible aerobic exercise there is.
It requires little preparation, no expensive equipment and no coaching. You simply put on a decent pair of shoes and go for as long and as far as you feel like it.
That’s one of the reasons walking is the most popular aerobic exercise in the nation, and why people like NBC Today show’s Al Roker are so vocal about the benefits of walking to stay active and keep your weight down.
Benefits of Walking
The first thing you need to know: To achieve aerobic benefits, you must maintain a brisk pace. The talk test is a good way to measure your workout. If you can carry on a full conversation without any change in your breathing pattern, you may be going too slow. If you can’t talk at all, you’re probably going too fast.
When you walk, your heart rate increases. So does your rate of breathing. As your heart works harder, it’s delivering more oxygen to your body.
Regular walking delivers many health benefits, including:
- Stronger bones
- Healthier tendons and ligaments
- More energy
- Better endurance
- Improved immunity against sickness
- Stronger heart function
- Better brain function (especially for older adults)
- Lower blood pressure
- Less weight gain
- Improved sleep
- Longer life expectancy
Tips For Better Walking
Walking is the easiest exercise from a logistical standpoint. Unlike swimming, you don’t need a pool. Unlike cycling, you don’t need a bicycle. And unlike running, there’s less impact on your joints.
Here are some tips to get the most out of your walk:
- Be safe. Treadmills at the home or gym work fine, especially when the weather isn’t cooperating. But if you’re going outside, use a trail or a sidewalk, bring your cell phone and wear clothing that makes you more visible.
- Be kind to your feet. You don’t need expensive walking shoes, but you should wear something that’s comfortable with good arch and ankle support. Avoid walking distances in sandals, heels or dress shoes.
- Be sociable. Walking with a buddy (or buddies) can be safer and more fun, but it also makes you accountable. And that means more consistency in your exercise.
- Be habitual. Walking needs to be a habit, the same as brushing teeth and taking showers. Put it in your calendar and set reminders. Make it non-negotiable.
- Be flexible. Some people like to keep it interesting by varying their routes so they can see new sites.
- Be hydrated. Your body will get the most out of your walking workout if you’re drinking enough water.
How Much Is Enough?
Federal guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week, which means exercise that elevates your heart rate and your body’s use of oxygen.
That may sound like a lot, but you can break it down into manageable chunks. For example, you can reach that time target by briskly walking 30 minutes a day five days each week. You can even break that down further, for example, by walking 15 minutes twice a day.
The key is reaching and sustaining a certain rate based on your age (you can find that range by checking the American Heart Association’s target heart rates chart).
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