Exercise needs to be all pain or there is no gain, right? Not necessarily so. The wonder of walking can improve your overall health and fitness, as well as helping you stay slim and trim. Acquiring these benefits is dependent on you walking regularly and consistently for the long-term.
Walking is obviously a lower intensity exercise than a high impact aerobics class or a 6am bootcamp session and as such provides a lesser stimulus for the body to respond to. A 10 minute stroll along the beach once in a while won’t do much more than clear your head and give you a dose of vitamin D.
However, research shows that walking, even slowly, does have a very real effect on your health when it is done regularly, for an hour plus per day, consistently, over years. This makes sense if we assume the same amount of time spent sitting on our butts. An hour’s walk every day adds up to 3650 hours of light activity over 10 years.
Among the health benefits noted are those that aren’t immediately gratifying but do become very important in the long-term, lowered cholesterol and blood pressure, reduced risk of obesity and diabetes. There are also some lesser known reasons to put one foot in front of the other regularly.
A reduction in vascular stiffness and inflammation, peripheral artery disease, colon cancer, dementia and even erectile dysfunction.
Walking has psychological benefits including diminishing stress, anxiety and depression. Perhaps Hippocrates was right in stating “walking is man’s best medicine”.
However, the gains are also capped and you need to ask yourself whether you are satisfied with the level of health and fitness that can be achieved by walking alone, or do you want more.
The National Heart Foundation recommends 10,000 steps per day. This is an attempt to try and keep – or get, us moving and safeguard a base level of health and wellbeing.
Modern life works against us with job requirements, modes of transport, advances in technology and many of today’s past-times involving sitting on your backside.
Achieving 10,000 steps per day is an excellent start and easily measured with a clip on pedometer. But, if you want your butt to look good in those jeans and your arms not to jiggle when you wave, if it matters to you to feel strong and flexible in daily life and be able to take part in sports for fun.
It is best to see walking as part of the puzzle, rather than the whole answer.
Your body needs cardio, resistance work, stretching and core exercises – plus lots of walking and general activity, to operate at it’s best for life.
By Rachel Livingstone Personal Trainer & Owner of The Health Hub
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