Walking is one of the best, safest and most natural forms of exercise. You can, in fact, walk your way to a healthier, stronger cardiovascular system. Walking is effective exercise for people of all ages and all states and levels of health. What’s more, walking increases our sense of well-being. Think about it – we were actually designed for lengthy, regular walking.
Walking is the most underrated exercise and yet one of the most effective; the best starting point if you haven’t moved properly in ages. One of the easiest and safest ways to get and keep fit is a brisk walk of 20 minutes three times weekly. Studies have shown that regular brisk walking can lower cholesterol levels, stimulate circulation, strengthen the heart, help control weight, reduce high blood pressure, stress and depression, prevent osteoporosis, and develop strength, stamina and endurance. New research also suggests walking is the best exercise for the brain, as it doesn’t call on blood sugar for energy like aerobic exercise. As the brain is nourished by blood sugar, it much prefers a brisk walk to an aerobics class.
If you haven’t taken any exercise for a while then start off gradually, strolling with a bit more determination a little longer than normal, slowly building up your endurance level. It is probably also a good idea to start walking at a fairly relaxed pace until you have warmed up, before graduating to a really brisk speed.
Even for walking you do need to be prepared
If you are doing a lot of serious, committed walking then you might want to buy a pair of shoes actually designed for walking. When you walk you land with 1½ times your body weight on the outside of your heels; then you roll your weight forward on the ball of your foot. A good walking shoe will allow the rolling action of the foot with ease. Older people may be more stable in a shoe with a thinner hard sole. You should also wear comfortable clothes that don’t restrict your movements. In winter, wear layers that you can peel off as you warm up.
Tips for healthy walking
Walking is the most natural, practical, straightforward preventative exercise programme. The ultimate safe natural fitness routine, walking builds body strength, stamina and tone. It also de-stresses you – which is good for the heart and the nervous system. In your later years, it slows down the ageing process, keeping you fit, agile and mobile. Walking also helps you develop better coordination, breath control, self esteem and endurance.
Walking should be the primary part of your fitness routine, no matter what other exercise systems, movement or sports attract you. Walk first, then run or dance or ride your bike. It’s up to you – you can cycle till you’re blue in the face and you still won’t get all the benefits you get from a good brisk walk. If your walking muscles atrophy, the rest of your body will soon follow. Brisk walking is the greatest form of exercise: your natural basic life-long conditioning programme, protecting your heart and enhancing your well-being.