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Walking for Exercise

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Do yourself a favour, and watch the video below about walking for exercise. If you're skeptical about the health benefits of walking, rest assured that it can have an enormous positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing. The video presents an incredibly persuasive and research validated argument for walking as a form of exercise, and at 9 minutes and 19 seconds in duration it's probably not too much time to spare for something that could change, or perhaps save, your life.

Walking, as a form of exercise, is truly underrated. When people think of exercise they do not generally visualize themselves walking. Instead, they imagine themselves performing relatively high intensity activities requiring significant sweating and heavy breathing; things like running, swimming, cycling, stair climbing, aerobics, etc. And while there is no doubt that these types of higher intensity activities are excellent and highly recommended forms of exercise, the fact that walking doesn't fall into this type of higher intensity exercise category does not mean that it is without its own merit. On the contrary, if we take into account both the practical benefits and the health benefits of walking as a form of exercise, it can reasonably be argued that walking is the best exercise there is. The author of the video above, Dr. Mike Evans, is confident enough in the health benefits of walking to claim that walking on a regular basis may be the single best thing (not just best exercise, but best thing overall) that you can do for your health.

view of some feet walking on the ground

Health Benefits of Walking for Exercise

Let's take a closer look at the health benefits of walking for exercise. First and foremost, walking (briskly and on a regular basis) for exercise improves your cardiorespiratory fitness level. And while we all know fitness is important, how important is it really? Well, as is explained in the video, from a statistical perspective a low cardiorespiratory fitness level is the health risk factor that most strongly predicts death, even when compared against other known risk factors like obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. So it's fair to say that your cardiorespiratory fitness level is important if you consider remaining alive to be important. But the beauty of walking for exercise is that it isn't just a means to burn calories, lose weight, and improve cardiorespiratory fitness (which, in and of itself is reason enough to do it); walking for exercise also treats an assortment of illnesses and health conditions, including arthritis, dementia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Furthermore, walking for exercise reduces risk of hip fracture in the elderly, reduces risk of cataracts, increases bone density, reduces risk of falling, improves balance, improves flexibility, improves back and lower extremity strength, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (this is the bad type of cholesterol), increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (this is the good type of choleserol), reduces risk of heart disease, reduces risk of stroke, and reduces risk of colon and breast cancers. And these are just some of the known health benefits of walking for exercise, there are almost certainly more health benefits of walking that will be discovered in the years to come.

Practical Benefits of Walking for Exercise

Walking doesn't just make sense from a health perspective, it's also an extremely convenient way to exercise. The appeal of walking as an exercise activity, from a purely practical perspective, lies in its simplicity; walking does not require any special equipment, facilities, or prior training, which means that you can walk virtually anywhere, at any time, for no cost. Walking is time efficient, because you don't need to drive to the gym to get started, and it can be combined with other activities that you likely need to do anyway, like walking the dog or perhaps taking the baby out in the stroller. Walking is low impact and low intensity, which means that it is safe for people of all ages, weights, and fitness levels. Walking can be fun and relaxing; its low intensity level makes it ideal for anyone eager to exercise yet not willing or able to endure the discomfort of high intensity exertion. It's also a great way for unfit individuals to start an exercise regimen and gradually intensify it (as opposed to overexerting yourself right at the start and establishing a hatred of intense exercise). Ultimately, if simplicity, time commitment, return on investment, enjoyment, cost, etc., are taken into account, there is likely no better form of exercise than walking.

How to Walk for Exercise

The walking for exercise guidelines are very simple. Just take a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes every day. If you do more than that it's even better, but the rate of return is best up to 30 minutes each day.

Other Resources

Follow the links below to view more articles regarding walking for exercise and the related health benefits:

"Benefits of Walking" at HowStuffWorks.com

"Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health" at MayoClinic.com

References

Brosseau L, Wells GA, Kenny GP, Reid R, Maetzel A, Tugwell P, Huijbregts M, McCullough C, De Angelis G, Chen L. The implementation of a community-based aerobic walking program for mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis: A knowledge translation randomized controlled trial: Part II: Clinical outcomes. BMC Public Health. 2012 Dec 12;12:1073.

Johnson JL, et al. Exercise training amount and intensity effects on metabolic syndrome (from studies of a targeted risk reduction intervention through defined exercise). The American Journal of Cardiology. 2007;100:1759.

Krall EA, Dawson-Hughes B. Walking is related to bone density and rates of bone loss. Am J Med. 1994 Jan;96(1):20-6.

Nyrop KA, Charnock BL, Martin KR, Lias J, Altpeter M, Callahan LF. Effect of a six-week walking program on work place activity limitations among adults with arthritis. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2011 Dec;63(12):1773-6.

Oh DH, Park JE, Lee ES, Oh SW, Cho SI, Jang SN, Baik HW. Intensive exercise reduces the fear of additional falls in elderly people: findings from the Korea falls prevention study. Korean J Intern Med. 2012 Dec;27(4):417-25.

Pugh D. Time to encourage patients to take more exercise. Practitioner. 2012 Sep;256(1754):25-8, 3.

Williams PT. Walking and Running Are Associated with Similar Reductions in Cataract Risk. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Dec 27.

Wolin KY, Lee IM, Colditz GA, Glynn RJ, Fuchs C, Giovannucci E. Leisure-time physical activity patterns and risk of colon cancer in women. Int J Cancer. 2007 Dec 15;121(12):2776-81.

Wu Y, Zhang D, Kang S. Physical activity and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 Feb;137(3):869-82.

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