Greetings all! I would like to share with you my personal experiences in walking for exercise and good health, enjoyment, and the thrill of accomplishment. The beauty of walking to stay fit and feel better is that most anyone can participate and the goals you set are your own.
About 6 or 7 years ago my doctor warned me of my increasing weight (borderline obese), family risk factor of heart disease, and a dangerously high cholesterol ratio (HDL to LDL). He prescribed Lipitor to manage the HDL cholesterol level but recommended regular exercise and diet to manage the other factors. That was the challenge - playing competitive basketball anymore was not an option because of repaired cartilage and aging joints, especially the knees. And I don't use treadmills in large part because I work long hours underground and can't bear the thought of missing any daylight that is left.
That is when I started walking as a serious form of exercise but it was slow going at first. The first year I walked 1 to 1.5 miles two or three times weekly from April through most of November. As I experimented with different footwear (sneaks, socks, blister protectors & so on) and improved my conditioning, I gradually increased each summer my 2-3 times weekly walks: 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, and now 9 or 10 miles. Twice each summer I walk a 25-mile round trip on the beautiful Catherine Valley Trail in New York state, which runs from Millport to Watkins Glen. The results - weight down, cholesterol ratio now way below normal, breathing has improved (less issues with asthma) and I feel more energetic.
Aside from the enjoyment of meeting people and being outdoors, walking has many health benefits, not all so obvious. The biggest disadvantage of walking compared to running is the extra time required and patience is important - results do not happen overnight. So walking is not for all of us, but if other exercise options are not available or you are struggling to meet more ambitious goals, then consider a long, steady path towards walking.
BENEFITS FROM WALKING
- Manage cholesterol - extended walking will raise your LDL cholesterol but it is gradual and requires extended, regular exercise.
- Weight control - Walking can help you lose weight but it must be done regularly and you should improve your diet at the same time.
- Opportunities to reflect - walking can be boring for some but take advantage to reflect. Some of your most creative thinking may emerge. You may even want to take with you a voice recorder so you can capture some of your most inspiring reflections. And it's okay if people think you are talking to yourself!
- Listen to podcasts and audiobooks, although do be careful of your surroundings. I mix days with podcasts and music or nothing at all.
- Find where your local nature trails are and take advantage of them.
- Take photographs and share with others
- Walking can be social - walk with your spouse, friends, family, and neighbors
- You can compete in walkathons for good causes and raise money.
- Manage stress - when you improve your health and sense of well-being, then stress will naturally decrease as well.
- There is less wear and tear on the joints. The shock factor of a runner's step is 3-4 times a person's weight but walking is usually only 1 to 1.5. Sports such as basketball and tennis can reach a SF of 6 or 7.
- Manage asthma - Many folks with asthma report fewer attacks when they exercise regularly and I can attest to that personally. At the end of long walks I enter a "zone" in which there is no effects of asthma - exhilarating! (however, like death and taxes, it does come back.)
- Burning calories. There is no question that running burns more calories during the same amount of time - more bang for your buck. However, many of us do not run really fast and all of us could improve our walking speed over time. For example, if you walk for 30 minutes at 4 miles per hour you will burn 165 calories. Running 5 miles during the same amount of time burns 285 calories.
- Blood pressure - A study shows that 40 minutes of brisk walking (3 or 4 mph) will reduce blood pressure and this article explains why it works.
HOW TO GET STARTED
- Most Americans walk less than 6,000 steps per day and many much less than that. I have known of office managers who always work at their desk and can not manage more than 3,000 steps in one day. Get up from your desk often and take short walking breaks.
- Purchase a pedometer and start calculating how much you walk. Then set goals to realistically increase your average steps per day. The recommended average is 10,000 daily steps.
- Establish a walking route and schedule regular times to achieve your goal no matter how modest it may be.
- Finally, I recommend purchasing quality footwear (personally I have had great luck with Nike Air Monarch) and to make sure you have plenty of toe room!
- Slideshow of my July 5, 2010 walk from Millport to Watkins Glen and back through New York State's gorgeous Catherine Valley Trail.
- More advantages of Walking
- You may have already read about the dangers of staying sedentary in your office chair. If not, be sure to read this excellent article "Stand Up While You Read This!"
- Running vs. Walking
- The Mayo Clinic list other benefits of walking
- Wow! Walk Like the Amish
- The Omron HJ-112 odometer, which I have owned for several years is durable and accurate. There is a safety clip that catches the pedometer if disconnects from your belt.
- Walking for fitness? Make it count with a pedometer