What are the Benefits of Walking for Exercise?
There are many benefits to walking for exercise. Improved physical fitness and weight loss are two of the most commonly cited benefits. Walking for exercise is an aerobic activity, meaning it increases the heart rate, strengthening the heart and increasing the capacity and endurance of the lungs. These cardiovascular benefits of walking are important for people of all ages.
One of the first benefits of walking for exercise is that it can be enjoyed by nearly anyone, from kids to the elderly. It is a low impact exercise compared to jogging, for example, meaning that it does not put undue pressure on the joints and bones. It does help to keep the bones strong, however, and can help to prevent fractures in older people. Be sure to wear supportive walking shoes with a sturdy heel and flexible insole, and to gently stretch after a walking workout to prevent muscle tightness. In addition, wear brightly colored clothing when walking outside, and wear reflectors at night to prevent accidents; be sure that headphones are turned low enough to hear a car horn if necessary.
Because walking for exercise is an aerobic workout, it also burns calories. The amount of calories burned depends on one's height, weight, time spent walking, and the walking speed, but there are many calculators available online that can help to determine the amount of calories that were burned in an exercise session. When doing an aerobic activity such as walking in conjunction with eating a healthy diet, it can help one to lose weight, or to maintain a healthy weight.
When trying to walk for aerobic benefits, it is important to walk briskly. One should be breathing heavily enough to carry on a conversation, but not to sing, for example. Some people use pedometers to track their steps, which can also tell them at what pace they are walking. It is fine to start walking for exercise at a slower pace, then gradually increase the pace as physical fitness improves. Walking can also help to improve balance and coordination.
Other benefits of walking for exercise are often mental benefits. Exercise helps to release endorphins in the brain, which can alleviate stress and mild depression, and even boost the mood. In addition, walking can help improve energy levels throughout the day, as well as help one to fall asleep more easily at night. All of these benefits can help to reduce anxiety and high blood pressure as well. These are just a few of the many benefits from this simple exercise.
@pleonasm - People don't just exercise to burn calories though. And health experts are always changing their minds about the benefits of one exercise or another. But I seriously doubt that anyone will ever prove that walking has no benefits as an exercise because it's obviously not true.
You've got to remember that it's usually not a choice between running and walking for most people. It's a choice between walking and not walking. If everyone made an effort to walk for half an hour every day, the world would be a much fitter place. It still wouldn't be perfect, but it would be better than it is at the moment.
And that's the best thing about walking, I think. It's almost effortless compared with other kinds of exercise, but it can help you in a lot of different ways.
@Fa5t3r - I don't think walking has all that many exercise benefits to be honest. I've seen studies that show that people who walk tend to feel more hungry, while people who run the same distance will actually feel less hungry.
They aren't completely sure why, but it might be because running encourages your body to release fat stores, making you feel satisfied.
I always run into trouble when I get too ambitious about exercise. I'll have myself convinced that I'll be able to use walking to burn calories at a rapid rate and that I'll be walking several hours a day right from the start.
When the reality sets in and I either don't manage to meet my target, or meet it and make myself really sore, I get discouraged and abandon the idea of exercise altogether.
It took me a while to really notice this pattern, because each time I would be freshly enthusiastic and freshly discouraged, just like the first time.
I've realized it's better to just set small targets and if I happen to go over them, that is just a bonus. Any exercise is better than none at all, so I need to stay upbeat even if all I can manage is a ten minute walk around the block.
I might never become a super athlete, but being able to maintain my health is important to me and I think I have to give up the athlete dream in order to adjust my expectations to a reasonable level.
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