Walking to Health (Part One)

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Walking is fantastic way to get fit – and stay – healthy
The key is to start slowly and always consult with a doctor first before beginning a new exercise program

One of the reasons many health experts give walking such rave reviews is because it’s a ‘lifestyle exercise’. That means you can usually make time for it without too much of a change to your daily routine. Walking to the shop, to Church,  to your place of work,  or to your friend’s house-may take a little more time, but we soon find we save money and time than we would  if going to the gym or Fitness classes (and making the time to get there) can be.

Because it’s easy to fit into everyday life, people who walk tend to keep it up, and as you’ll see below, regular exercise is exactly what you need to improve your health.
What are the health benefits of walking?
Here’s a startling fact for you:
Burning 500-1000 calories per week (that’s about 6-12 miles walking for an average weight person) reduces the risk of premature death by 20-30%.Walking will help protect you against:
• Cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke), as well as ‘risk factors’ such as high blood pressure and cholesterol
• Cancer (particularly bowel cancer, and breast cancer in post-menopausal women)
• Type 2 diabetes
• Obesity

The benefits of walking are that you decrease your risk of heart attack, helps you control your cholesterol, helps manage your weight, and your risk of stroke is lowered.Iit has also been shown to improve musculoskeletal health (for example osteoarthritis and lower back pain) and is great for relieving stress, thus enhancing mental health and well-being

For many of us, when we hear the word ‘exercise’ we conjure up visions of the stuffy gym… maybe  a high impact body tone class-with lots of super fit men and women. Or maybe we think of a fitness DVD… or perhaps a competitive sport like cycling, basketball, or tennis. We don’t often imagine a relaxing stroll around the park or a brisk walk to the shops, do we? But we should – because walking is exercise too.

Walking is a normal, everyday activity – and that’s partly why we forget it’s actually exercise at all. It’s good for us. It can help us stay healthy and watch our weight. And it gives us energy (which makes us feel great). There’s really no other exercise like it!
A 30-minute miracle
And with walking, you don’t have to do a lot to reap the rewards. The minimum recommendation from doctors to keep your body healthy and prevent illness such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes is 150 minutes of activity a week. Just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week – and you can break that down into chunks of ten or fifteen minutes if you want to.

Taking a walk requires little money or preparation and isn’t nearly as intimidating as running or other strenuous activities. A 2007 Duke University Medical Centre study found that people who walked thirty minutes almost every day of the week lost weight and lowered their risk for metabolic syndrome.


Optimum pace 
As is the case with any other exercise, we think we have to push ourselves to see results. To figure out whether you’re walking fast enough, do the talk test. If you can sing a song, you’re probably walking too slowly to get your heart pumping. If you can barely utter a few words without gasping for breaths, your heart might be pumping too much.

It is important not to push your body too hard too soon.  In her next article Susan Ruff will share more on this topic of walking to health, helping you to develop your skills as a walker so you can derive optimum pleasure and benefit from the exercise.


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