If you want to know about the best exercise for your health and fitness, you are not alone. The enormous benefit of the exercise for general health, longevity, and for warding off diseases has become so widely known these days that fitness clubs have been cropping up everywhere to cater to the growing demand. Health conscious joggers have been filling our streets as never before. Clearly, people have become aware of the importance of exercise, particularly jogging (or aerobics in general), to health and well-being.
What is generally not known is that regular brisk walking provides many (if not all) of the benefits of jogging. It is also simpler, causes less injury, and is much safer than running or jogging. The beauty of walking is that it is something we learned how to do when we were barely two years old and is something we will probably continue to do long after we retire. Furthermore, it requires no skill, needs no practice, and no equipment except for a good pair of sturdy shoes. Those are just a few of the reasons why walking is considered the best exercise.
Walking 30 to 60 minutes a day offers the following benefits:
1. Walking minimizes the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Regular brisk walking improves utilization of insulin and controls cholesterol and blood sugar levels. According to the diabetes prevention program, walking for 50 minutes a week and achieving a 7 percent reduction in weight decreases the risk of getting type-2 diabetes by up to 58%. Walking burns about 100 calories per mile is thus one of the best ways to prevent or combat type-2 diabetes.
2. Improves blood circulation
Walking boosts blood circulation by increasing the size and efficiency of blood vessels. This is particularly beneficial for people who suffer from poor blood circulation in their feet, legs, or arms. Increased blood circulation and increased heartbeat rate in turn facilitate the transport of oxygen rich blood to lungs and muscles thereby increasing their efficiency markedly. That is one reason why walking is often prescribed as the best exercise after heart surgery.
3. Increases bone density
Another benefit you can accrue from regular walking is increased bone density. Several studies have shown that brisk walking significantly increases bone density particularly in older and post-menopausal women. Furthermore, by improving circulation around the legs, walking ensures that bones get the calcium and potassium they need for optimal functioning.
4. Walking improves physical function among the elderly
Walking is particularly useful for the elderly who tend to be vulnerable to injuries. Many elderly people find jogging too strenuous to practice on a regular basis and are liable to accidents and injuries. Walking on the other hand is less stressful, less likely to cause injuries or accidents, and can even be enjoyable.
5. Improves brain function
In addition to the physical benefits listed above, walking also has a positive effect on the brain. According to some studies, it improves memory and cognitive function and battles declines in brain function that comes with aging. Researchers have also confirmed that the cognitive function of women who walked at least 2 hours per week is significantly greater than women who walked less than 30 minutes. Walking also relieves stress, depression, and anxiety by causing the release of endorphins – the body’s natural tranquilizers.
The above are just some of the benefits you can derive from walking. All you need to derive benefits is to walk more often and to do it briskly and vigorously. To maximize benefits, maintain proper posture while you walk; stand up straight and tall with your chin up and with each step, swing the arm opposite to your forward feet.
One final note: walking shouldn’t be done casually or intermittently. You will gain little if you do it haphazardly and inconsistently. One effective way to motivate yourself and overcome your lethargy is to do it with a walking buddy. If someone is counting on you or waiting for you to show up, you are less likely to skip or cancel a commitment.
It may also help to constantly remind yourself of the good-feeling that follows walking. When we walk, the body releases the chemical serotonin, the natural feel-good hormone.
Endorphins (happy hormones) are also released and that is why you feel a mild, natural high at the end of a walking workout session. Remembering this feeling can be a good incentive for you to keep doing it. However you do it, maintain a consistent routine; stick to it and you will find out yourself why walking is the best exercise.