Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Time to Start a Walking Program

Cardiovascular disease is a serious health threat. Nearly 5 million Americans suffer from it. One of the safest and most effective ways to improve your cardiovascular fitness is by walking.

Walking is an ideal low impact aerobic exercise. If done regularly, it can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, lower total cholesterol, raise healthy HDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure. It can help maintain healthy bones and muscles, stabilize blood sugar, improve immunity and relieve some of the stress in your life. Thousands have realized the physical and psychological benefits of walking. That’s why walking has become one of the most popular ways to stay fit. Another reason is because it—s inexpensive–– all it takes is a little motivation and a comfortable pair of shoes.

According to the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, men who walk at least half an hour, six days a week, can cut their mortality rate from heart disease in half, compared with those who are sedentary. Studies show similar heart health benefits for women when they’exercise regularly. Now there’s a good reason to make a lifestyle change!

In 1996, just prior to the Olympic games in Atlanta, the Office of the Surgeon General reported on the health benefits derived from being physically active. The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health noted the following benefits of exercise:

  • Cardiac Risk – Overwhelming evidence from epidemiologic studies shows that a physically active lifestyle reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death (Leon et al 1987). Physical inactivity is casually linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease (Powell et. Al. 1987; Black 1994).
  • Blood Pressure Control – Studies generally report that there is significant reductions in blood pressure following endurance exercise training (Fagard & Tipton, 1994; Am. College Sports Med. 1993).
  • Anxiety and Depression – Adults who spend more time participating in regular exercise, sports or other physical activities have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than persons who reported no or low levels of participation in these same activities (Ross & Hayden 1988).
  • Note: Depression is a serious illness. If you feel depressed for longer than a 3-week period of time, discuss your symptoms with your health care professional.)

A prolonged physical activity such as purposeful walking for 30 to 60 minutes daily can substantially increase energy expenditure. Regular walking can help control weight. When combined with a low-calorie, low-fat diet, walking daily can help reduce body weight and fat. It’s an effective calorie-burner. Walking at an even pace for 1 hour burns about 350 calories, while walking briskly and moving your arms with each stride can burn as much as 500 calories, depending upon your metabolism. In order to increase your metabolism, you need to workout nearly every day. And, the higher your metabolism, the faster you burn calories. Once you increase your metabolism, you will continue to burn calories even after you’ve finished exercising. Imagine burning calories even while you sleep!

Walking can help ease back discomfort. In one study, 64% of people reported a substantial decrease in back pain after instituting an exercise therapy program like walking.

Walking boosts energy levels. Just ten minutes of brisk walking is enough to boost your mood and energy for 1 to 2 hours. Studies show that those who exercise have more energy and a lower incidence of illness.

Walking fights the aging process. Women spend hundreds of dollars each year on cosmetics trying to look younger, but the best anti-aging formula doesn’t come in a bottle and it’s free.

To maximize the benefits of any aerobic exercise, you must sustain an activity for at least 20 to 60 minutes at each session. If you are out of shape, start with a 10–minute workout and gradually add 2 minutes a week until you reach your goal.

Before you begin your walk, take a few moments to warm up by stretching your major muscle groups. Then, if you would like to transform a leisurely stroll into a bona fide workout, follow these guidelines used by the famous marathon walker Ruth Artz:

  • Take long strides using your gluteal muscles (the muscles in the buttocks) to propel you forward.
  • Bend your arms slightly, swinging them as you walk.
  • Stand up straight with your abdominal muscles tucked in.
  • Maintain a pace at which you are breathing deeply but can still carry on a conversation, although you would prefer not to.
  • If your breathing becomes labored and conversation difficult, you are working out too hard. Anytime you feel out of breath or have any pain, slow down or take a break. If these problems persist, consult your doctor.

You needn’t make it your ambition to train and look like an Olympic athlete to reap the many health benefits of walking. What’s important is that you maintain a healthy weight and achieve a certain degree of conditioning. Even a leisurely walk for 20-30 minutes a day is beneficial. If you don’t have 20 minutes to spare, at least do two 10-minute walks. Just do it. The key to your success lies within yourself, so lace up your sneaks and put one foot in front of the other and you will be starting your own walking program for better health.


At 12:08 PM, Blogger Sarah Pavlovich said...

Walking is safe, fun, inexpensive, and can help you achieve a trimmer body and enhanced general health. I work at Prevention Magazine and we are encouraging our readers and anyone interested to join Team Prevention in walking the Portland and Hartford Marathons.

Prevention's message is that by making little changes in your life, you can make a big difference. We focus on health, wellbeing, fitness, food & nutrition, weight loss, beauty, and family. Seeing the group of individuals that are active on your site, I wanted to extend an invitation to join Team Prevention in walking the Portland Marathon on October 1st or the Hartford Half or Full on October 14th. Registration for the events closes on July 31.

Prevention is here to help you with training, in creating a community of walkers throughout the country with similar concerns and issues, and to be a support as we work to achieve an accomplishment of walking a marathon with your friends!

For more information, please feel free to contact me and check out the link below:

Join Team Prevention: http://www.prevention.com/article/0,,s1-2-56-235-6715-1,00.html

Happy Walking,

Sarah Pavlovich
Prevention Magazine
733 3rd Avenue, 7th Fl.
New York, NY 10017
(212) 808-1620


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