Walking

If you’ve given up on the idea of embarking on a fitness program because you’ve been sold the old idea of no pain, no gain, we’d like to take you for a walk — and change your mind in the process.

That no pain line was probably invented by some guy who had a set of free weights to sell. The good news is, walking can be a great form of cardio exercise, and a regular walking habit might be the fitness program you’ve been hoping for.

Walking Into The Future

For years we’ve known, or at least suspected, that walking was good for us. The joints need it. It helps us maintain balance as we age. The activity helps with bone density. We could continue with the list, but the fact is that the body needs to move. And while no pain, no gain might be a faulty quip, there is a lot of truth in another line we’re familiar with — move it, or lose it.

Walking is what the medical and fitness communities refer to as a weight-bearing exercise. As such, it comes with benefits like:

  • better heart and lung fitness
  • better management of the dreaded “highs” — high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • better balance
  • more muscle strength

Time Is On Your Side

As long as we’re dispensing with reasons we can’t get into fitness and exercise, let’s do away with this one: staying fit just takes too much time.

Walking just 30 minutes a day will deliver all the health benefits described above. The caveat here (you knew there had to be one) is that it needs to be a brisk 30-minute walk. Health pros define brisk as a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation with your walking buddy, but probably prompts some huffing and puffing by the time you finish.

The medical pros confirm that brisk walking will deliver health benefits while posing little risk. Of course, if you have any health conditions you should ask your personal physician whether a frequent 30-minute brisk walk is advisable.

Incorporate Tools of the Trade

Before you launch into a fitness routine — even a daily walk — it is advisable to be certain you’re appropriately equipped. 

Walking

Number one on this list is to take care of your feet. Don’t walk in broken-down shoes that provide little to no support. The right shoes will make for enjoyable walks.

One other item to consider is a pedometer or smart watch. In addition to tracking steps and distance, many of these are able to track heart rate. Keeping track of your heart rate, from the beginning to the end of your walk, will provide you with valuable benchmarks for heart health and progress.

And finally, one of the most valuable things you can incorporate into your exercise and fitness efforts is some companionship. A walking buddy, or even two or three others, turns your fitness and exercise time into a fulfilling social encounter. The shared experience will almost certainly stimulate new conversations.

A Real-Life Approach to Fitness

You may not think walking constitutes one of the new and exotic fitness programs. But you might be surprised who you’ll encounter and what you’ll experience when you hit one of those walking paths with a neighbor or friend. In many respects, walking is the most organic form of fitness we might imagine, whether we’re strolling down the boulevard, or taking a walk in the park.

Video on Walking for Health

Walking

Tanzania is scattered with fossils which demonstrate that our ancestors began walking on two legs at least six million years ago.

Bipedalism is thought to have been a factor in the evolution of our gigantic brains and use of tools. A study from the London School of Economics found that it can be the best deterrent against obesity of all forms of exercise.

Taking a stroll is a powerful and underutilized work-out we can all do for free.

Brilliant Bipeds

Humans are one of the few species on earth that have adopted a bipedal gait. Other animals that walk on two feet include birds, kangaroos, lizards and occasionally primates. The way we walk is unique in that we keep our backs and our knees unbent. We strike the floor first with our heels and our toes are the last part of our body to leave the ground. In fact, the animal which adopts the most similar style of walking to us is a chicken.

An Ancient Form of Exercise

The exercise was first seen as an important aspect of maintaining good physical health after the Neolithic agricultural revolution. Prior to this, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle necessitated fitness in order to be successful in obtaining sustenance. Ancient Indian and Chinese civilizations realized that physical exertion protected people from certain diseases that a sedentary lifestyle seemed to promote.

Since those times, we’ve devised elaborate, competitive and beautiful methods of exercising. Fitness is currently one of the most lucrative industries in the world and the quest for physical optimization is something that most of us strive for. Caught up in a haze of marketing, fancy gyms and social media posts of our friends doing weird and wonderful forms of exercise, it can be too easy to forget about simple yet effective walking.

Free Fitness for Everyone

The world is a beautiful place, and walking gives you the opportunity to soak in the scenery and breathe in the fresh air. That said, you don’t need to travel to the countryside in order to get your fix of walking fitness. Canal towpaths, heritage trails, heaths, and riverside paths can be found to ramble along in towns and cities. For optimum results, a pace of three miles per hour is recommended. Not many people know that walking is even an Olympic sport:

Walking can be a great way for those who aren’t as fit to get back to a more healthy lifestyle. Even just ten minutes per day of fast-paced walking can contribute towards better heart health, burning calories, and building stamina. Once this becomes comfortable and you feel ready, add an extra five minutes onto your daily walk to avoid plateauing. Another incredible benefit of walking is that it can be incorporated into your daily routine. Try these tips for a fitness boost:

  • Use the stairs instead of lifts and/or walk up and down escalators
  • Walk to and from work
  • Ditch the car for shopping trips
  • Take family walks after meals

Improve your physical and mental health

A study by the University of Stamford found that walking can increase creative output by up to 60%. This is thought to be because engaging in activities in which our minds are allowed to wander can promote a mental state highly conducive to concocting innovative ideas. It’s also been theorized that a ten-minute walk can be just as beneficial as a 45-minute workout for relieving symptoms of stress and anxiety.

While seemingly innocuous, walking is underestimated as a highly effective form of exercise. When incorporated with regular resistance training, it can provide the majority of a person’s fitness requirements.