Walking: The Ideal Exercise?
The best all-around form of exercise happens to be one that requires no special equipment, training, or skill. It’s something most of us do every day: walking. This simple activity offers numerous benefits for seniors who want to exercise.
Although it’s self-evident that walking would be good for you, various benefits have been confirmed by major scientific studies:
- Reduced risk of heart disease. The Nurses Health Study of 72,000 women found that three hours of brisk walking a week has the same effect as 15 minutes of vigorous exercise daily. Either form of exercise lowered the rate of heart attacks by up to 40%.
- Regular walking also helps treat established cardiovascular disorders: it lowers blood pressure, reduces “bad” cholesterol, and raises “good” cholesterol.
- Stronger bones. The density of your bones is related to the amount of weight-bearing exercise you do — walking is a weight-bearing exercise. In one study, walking was a close second to weight-lifting in increasing bone density, which helps prevent osteoporosis and fractures.
- Effective weight control. The National Weight Control Registry evaluated people who sustained a 30-pound weight loss over five years and found exercise to be key. It also found walking to be the most common form of exercise by people who lost weight successfully. For best results, walk with gusto!
- Reduced risk of diabetes. Walking helps prevent obesity, reduces blood glucose levels, and increases the body’s response to insulin.
- Mood elevation. Exercise helps ward off depression.
- Reduced cancer risk. Physical activity may help lower the risk of breast and colon cancers.
How far and how fast should you walk for these benefits? For the most health benefit, walk at a 3-mile-per-hour pace, which is fast enough to cover 15 city blocks or 1.5 miles of country road in half an hour. Although this pace is faster than a leisurely stroll, it’s slow enough for most people to be able to carry on a conversation with a walking buddy.
If you have led a sedentary lifestyle and are starting an exercise program, you don’t have to go the full 30 minutes at the start. Begin walking 10 minutes a day for a week and add five minutes each week. Select comfortable walking shoes, wear acrylic socks that absorb perspiration and prevent friction, establish a good route (uncongested, well-lighted, with a uniform surface), and stay hydrated by drinking a glass of water before and after your walk.
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