In an age of high intensity interval training and ultra-distance marathons, walking still hasn’t lost its ability and appreciation to help people stay fit and healthy without having to push their body to the extreme. Whether a person is at a level of fitness that does not allow them to fully push themselves, or they are an athlete looking to participate in some active recovery, walking is a great option for a low impact and gentle method of exercise.
Walking can be classed as aerobic exercise, meaning it uses the aerobic energy system within the body to power the activity. Aerobic exercise is often associated with endurance endeavors such as cycling, swimming and running and is associated with numerous health benefits, especially when it comes to the cardiovascular system. However for walking to truly enter the domain of aerobic exercise it is advised that the activity be performed at a brisk pace in order to raise the heart rate, but not enough to make the activity become uncomfortable and stressful.
Walking is an easy activity to become involved in, it requires no special equipment and can be performed just about anywhere. Additionally, people may not even have to free up time in their schedule to fit in a walking session, in fact it can be done during daily tasks. With that said, walking can also be enjoyed as an intense form of activity, with many trails and routes existing in the countryside and mountains for people to challenge themselves and earn some spectacular views. For example people can choose to walk to work or to the shops instead of driving or getting on a bus.
Here are just a few of the benefits that can be achieved by making walking a regular practice.
According to a Harvard Medical School publication, walking for a mere 2.5 hours of each week, meaning only 21 minutes per day of engaging in walking, may be capable of decreasing the risk of heart disease by an impressive 30 percent.
This is some incredibly vital data considering that 610,000 people in the United States of America die of heart disease every year, which equates to a massive 25 percent of all deaths within the country. One of the major risk factors for heart disease is lack of physical exercise, this is where walking can step in and start to gently improve the health of an individual.
Walking, along with stretching, has been shown to combat pain associated with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis has numerous causes, including aging, obesity and joint injury. These factors can lead to a breakdown of cartilage within the joints, a type of connective tissue that provides cushioning in joints. Symptoms of the condition include pain, swelling, tenderness and grating of crackling sensations within the joint upon certain movements.
Walking has been shown to increase blood flow to the cartilage within knee joints which in turn delivers nutrients to the tissue that allow for its proper functioning and health. Additionally, walking helps to strengthen and condition the muscles involved in knee movements, such as the calf, quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Strength adaptations in these muscle tissues allow for less stress being applied on the joint itself.
The fact that walking can lower blood pressure makes it a desirable activity for those who have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Hypertension is a blood pressure that is higher than 140 over 140 over 90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). Hypertension may be diagnosed when either systolic blood pressure (the pressure in the arteries during contractions of the heart) or diastolic blood pressure (the pressure in the arteries between contractions of the heart) are high.
Lifestyle factors such as lack of physical exercise, smoking, drinking alcohol and diet are risk factors for the development of hypertension. Between the years 2011 and 2012, a massive one third of the United States population over the age of 20 years old had hypertension. However, research has demonstrated that walking for 40 minutes each day can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Health isn’t just a measure of a person's physical well being, mental health and wellness also contributes greatly towards a person's overall quality of life. Depression is a condition that has many causes, including persona problems, substance abuse, serious illnesses, major life events and conflict. Symptoms can manifest as decreased energy, guilt, lack of cognitive function, low mood and pessimism.
Moderate-intensity exercise, which includes walking, has been shown to improve the quality of life for those dealing with depression. Various activities, including a total of 200 minutes spent walking each week, have been shown to boost energy in those with depression, whilst assisting them emotionally and allowing increased socialization.
A brisk walk during your day will boost oxygen circulation and deliver nutrition more efficiently to the cells of your body, boosting feeling of alertness and energy levels as a whole.
One of the few prerequisites for walking is to be outside, whether this means being in some beautiful foothills surrounded by green pastures and trees or strolling the city streets with the character and sights that surround the. Regardless of the exact location, a massive bonus of walking outdoors is the increase in sun expose, given that the skies are clear. More sun exposure on the skin means more vitamin D production in the body. When the UVB rays of the sun make direct contact with the skin, vitamin D is formed, a hormone in the body that has a whole host of its own health benefits including a boost in immune system function and stronger bones.
Walking can serve as a gentle yet effective activity to assist in weight loss. If a person is overweight to the degree that it is causing them to be unhealthy, loosing enough to come back to balance has a lot of health benefits. These include increased sex drive, more balanced hormones, improved sleep, healthier skin and a boost in mood.
Roughly speaking, a person weighing around 80kg can expect to burn 100 calories per mile walked. Obviously, both increased in distance and the speed that the distance is covered will increase the amount of calories burned during walking. A variety of apps and devices exist that allow users to accurately track and monitor distance covered, speed, calories burned and even heart rate.
Overtime and with dedication, and especially with the addition of steeper hills and climbs, muscles in the lower body will become stronger, more functional and more defined, creating a desired look among many. You can expect quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves to become more defined.