By John Hand —
Sure, there are many ways to start a fitness journey, from dieting to hiring trainers, buying Pelotons and even pumping iron. But the simplest and one of the most effective ways to get in shape is returning to a skill everyone learned as a toddler. Not sucking your thumb, but walking, as in putting one foot in front of the other.
Walking is not only easy and intuitive but can also deliver a cumulative impact that makes a substantive and sustained health impact. The American Heart Association, for example, recommends 150 minutes or two and half hours of moderate-to-intense activity a week. The easiest way to reach this goal is to walk thirty minutes every day. Want to make that easier? Go for three ten-minute strolls daily.
The positive deliverables are staggering. A cardio exercise such as walking improves the immune system, reduces the chances of getting heart disease, brings down cholesterol, increases energy levels and lowers blood pressure. In addition, The Mayo Clinic reports walking will increase muscle endurance and strengthen bones. A walk can also reduce stress, anxiety and depression, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Yet another study claims that walking improves an individual’s overall mood by increasing blood circulation to the brain.
Admittedly, many people choose running over walking for cardiovascular exercise. Runners tend to burn double the calories as walkers, and it is easier to achieve a more intense workout running. The danger or potential drawback to running is that it puts much more stress on the body. In comparison, walking is a low-impact exercise that still delivers benefits, Healthline.com reports. The option lowers the risk of shin splints, stress fractures and torn muscles.
Not convinced? Consider that the risk of injury to runners is 20-to-70 percent. Walkers, in turn, face a one-to-five percent chance of injury.
Of course, not everything in walking is cut and dry. There is still a lot of debate over what constitutes a healthy step count. Many reports put it at 10,000 steps a day, but one study found people who walked between 7,000 and 10,000 steps a day dramatically reduced their chances of death from cancer or heart disease. The same study discovered the intensity and speed of a walk were not mutually exclusive with the mortality rate. If the average adult can walk 2,000 steps a day, they would have walked a mile, and normally adults shuffle about 5,000 steps.
There’s another benefit to walking. It doesn’t require a gym membership or expensive pieces of exercise equipment. It can also be a social exercise with friends or a relaxing workout if the walker listens to music or a podcast. The Mayo Clinic advises good walking shoes are a must, and so is maintaining proper posture to get the most out of the exercise. Setting a daily goal is also a must, but that is as easy as putting aside 30 minutes every day for a decent stroll.