Benefits of walking

Beneifts of walking

Walking is good for you

There’s no doubt about it, walking is good for you. It’s good for your heart, it’s good for your lungs, it’s good for the muscle and bone growth of your children and it’s good for your feeling of wellbeing! Strong scientific evidence now supports the many benefits to health of regular walking.

Walking for general health

Regular participation in physical activity (like walking) is associated with reduced mortality rates for both older and younger adults (US Dept of Health 1996). In other words, walkers live longer! In particular, walking has a high impact on cardiovascular disease. Fit and active individuals have around half the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to unfit inactive people. This level of risk is similar to smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol in causing heart disease.

Fit walkers are less likely to fall and suffer injuries such as hip fractures because the bones are strengthened; less likely to sustain injury because joints have a better range of movement and muscles are more flexible; less prone to depression and anxiety; tend to be good sleepers; and are better able to control body weight. For general health, experts recommend accumulating a total of 30 minutes of brisk walking on most, preferably all days of the week. (Sources: US Dept of Health 1996, UK Dept of Health 2000, Health Education Authority 1996)

Walking to increase fitness

Regular walking, like all ‘aerobic’ exercise, can have a dramatic effect on cardiorespiratory fitness or ‘aerobic power’. Regular exercise carried out three times a week for 30 minutes or more at the right intensity will result in increases of aerobic power (Davison & Grant 1993) The intensity of walking for fitness benefits varies according to the age and fitness of the individual, but generally, ‘brisk is best’. A simple way to work out how briskly you should walk is to aim to walk “fast without overexertion”. You should just about be able to hold a conversation while you are walking - the ‘talk test’.

Even 10-minute brisk walks can increase fitness, provided that they are brisk enough. One study at Loughbrough University found that women walking continuously for 30 minutes 5 days a week had almost identical increases in fitness as women who split their 30 minutes into three 10-minute walks (Murphy & Hardman 1998).

Perhaps even more encouraging was that the short walkers lost more weight and reported greater decreases in waist circumference than the long walkers. Brisk is best - walk fast without overexertion.

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