THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF WALKING
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.
Health benefits of walking
Studies show that walking can:
- Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce high cholesterol and improve blood lipid profile
- Reduce body fat
- Enhance mental well being
- Increase bone density, hence helping to prevent osteoporosis
- Reduce the risk of cancer of the colon
- Reduce the risk of non insulin dependant diabetes
- Help to control body weight
- Help osteoarthritis
- Help flexibility and co-ordination hence reducing the risk of falls
Whether you want to walk to improve your general health, to keep fit, to control your weight, or perhaps to recover from a period of ill-health, walking can help. It is something that can be done with children or older family members, it need cost you nothing, and can fit in with any lifestyle, income bracket, culture or domestic circumstance.
Walking to increase fitness
Regular walking, like all ‘aerobic’ exercise, can have a dramatic effect
on fitness. Regular exercise carried out three times a week for 30 minutes or more at the right intensity will result in increased fitness and, hopefully, an energy boost as well.
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.
Walking for weight control
Control of body weight occurs when the calories taken in as food are balanced with the calories expended through walking and other physical activities. The key issue for weight control is to maximise the total volume of calories used, (at any intensity) and to combine this with healthy eating.
Walking one mile (1.6km) can burn up at least 100kcal (420kJ) of energy and walking two miles (3.2km) a day, three times a week, can help reduce weight by one pound (0.5kg) every three weeks.
Walking to regain health after illness or injury
Gentle walking can be beneficial for people suffering from a range of conditions. In fact there are few people on most GPs lists who would not benefit from walking more.
If you have been ill or have had an injury, always take your doctor’s advice if it differs from what is written here. It is important not to increase the heart rate too suddenly. At first, you may be able to walk only a very short way at a gentle pace, but if you do this regularly you will soon increase your capacity