An Amazingly Simple Way That Is Proven To Protect Health
For years fad exercise programs have dominated the cultural landscape. Advertisements have duped many of us into believing that we have to do strenuous Tae-Bo, P90X, or high-intensity aerobics to get in shape and protect our health. But many of those fad exercise programs are expensive and can produce injury and stress. Plus, many are too strenuous for most people who have been sedentary.
Fortunately, fad exercise programs aren’t necessary. Instead, research shows that walking may be one of the very best forms of exercise for all adults. By merely increasing the amount of walking that you do regularly, research shows that you can improve your heart and brain health, reduce arthritis symptoms, and just plain feel better. Walking offers tremendous health benefits. Plus, it’s free and it’s virtually without the risk of injury.
Walking may be the best form of health insurance you can invest in.
In this article we look at some of the proven benefits of walking. We’ll also look at the best ways to walk for health and enjoyment.
What Are The Proven Benefits?
Studies clearly show that walking is highly beneficial. People who walk regularly have lower rates of heart disease, dementia, depression, and more. And when researchers look at what happens when sedentary people begin to walk, the changes are all beneficial.
Walking is proven to normalize blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure. It can also reduce body fat, high cholesterol, and depression.
And again, all of those benefits come with none of the side effects of drugs (statins, antidepressants, and so forth). Plus, unlike most other forms of exercise, the risk of injury is extremely low.
How Much Is Enough?
A lot of walking advocates suggest that you should strive to walk at least 10,000 steps every day. For the average person that’s about 5 miles! Of course, you don’t need to walk all of that in one go. Every step counts, whether it’s walking to and from the car, to the bathroom, around the store, or a stroll around the neighborhood. So 10,000 steps isn’t quite as much as it may seem. But it’s still quite a lot if you’re not accustomed to it.
Yet is 10,000 steps necessary? Well, it turns out that the 10,000 figure isn’t based on any kind of scientific study. In fact, it may be based upon a translation of the brand name of a popular Japanese pedometer! So before you strive to walk 10,000 steps, let’s take a look at what research shows to be necessary to gain the benefits of walking.
In actual research, it turns out that just 3000 steps a day is enough to confer all the benefits of walking to those who have been sedentary. And 6000 steps is enough to almost eliminate the risk of mobility loss due to knee arthritis. Might there be more benefits to be had at 10,000 or more steps a day? That’s a possibility, of course. But thus far, research doesn’t prove it.
As a simple rule of thumb, strive to walk as much as you can and still feel good in a day. The danger of rules such as 10,000 steps a day is that it may push some people to hurt themselves by trying to do more than they should. Even 6000 steps a day is a lot for someone who already has limited mobility. But by consistently encouraging yourself to walk as much as you can, you’ll find that things will start to improve. Those with limited mobility can regain mobility through walking. And those with heart disease may be able to reverse it by increasing walking (along with some other sensible lifestyle changes). However, if you push yourself too hard, you can harm yourself and worsen your conditions. Maybe today you can only take 2 steps. If so, just take the 2 steps. Tomorrow maybe it’s 3. As long as you take the slow and steady route, you will be amazed at the changes that can take place in a year’s time.
How Fast Should You Walk?
Many experts and laypeople alike give walking advice, suggesting that it is important to walk briskly. Common advice is to try and keep up a 3-4 mph pace. The reasoning is that doing so elevates your heart rate, which many people consider to be essential for health.
But it turns out that they are wrong. Any walking is beneficial. According to studies it doesn’t matter if you walk at 4 mph or at 1 mph. All that matters is that you walk. And, in fact, slower walking offers unique benefits. Walking briskly relies heavily on momentum. But slow walking uses muscular energy. Plus, slower walking is less likely to produce injury than brisk walking.
According to research, the number of steps is one of the best determiners of outcomes. Those who walk 6000 steps a day, for example, essentially eliminate their risk of mobility loss. It doesn’t matter if they walk 6000 steps in an hour or 4 hours. The number of steps determines the benefits.
Practical Ways To Increase Walking
Many people make a small investment into a quality pedometer. Some of the pedometers such as the popular Fitbit devices. Some of the devices have capabilities that allow you to transfer information from the device to a computer or network. You can then easily participate in “challenges” that may serve to motivate you to walk more.
But you don’t need a fancy device or online challenges to benefit from walking. If you’d like to do that, that is great. But even tracking your exact number of steps is not necessary. As I wrote before, the main goal is to simply walk as much as you can while feeling good.
Whatever your starting point - unless, of course, you are already walking a great deal - challenge yourself to walk just a little bit more than usual. Increase the amount you walk just a little bit at a time. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little further away at the store. Get up and take 1 minute walking breaks more often throughout the day if you are seated much of the time.
If you enjoy walking long distances at a time, you can certainly walk for half an hour to an hour at a time. But for most of us, a more sustainable way to increase the number of steps we take is to insert more steps throughout the day. When you form these simple, little habits, it will add up, and you’ll be investing in the best health insurance available.