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The Many Benefits of Walking

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In another article I wrote about my experiences in choosing the right kind of exercise to follow. A few years ago I was warned by my youngest son's pediatrician about his triglycerides and cholesterol levels. I realized being a diabetic was not just my battle anymore. It is going to be a part of my family for years to come. I remember discussing various options of exercise and food options with 13-year-old that day. I also realized that besides Kaplan classes that summer, he hadn't been out of the house much for any physical activities as both my husband and I worked.

Of all the options he chose to walk, which surprised me. I was happy with his decision to walk with me to start off since it gave us time to spend together while encouraging each other to stay fit. Up until he went off to college we shared many things while walking in the park or sidewalks. It gave me an opportunity to get to know my son on a personal level.

People who tend to become bored with certain kinds of exercise after awhile can actually enjoy walking. Ever since we are born until the end of our lifetime we walk thousands of miles. When we walk for daily activities we don't realize that we are burning calories constantly. With the modern day luxuries like cars, elevators, trains, planes, escalators, televisions, and video games we are adapting to such a lazy life style that most of us do not understand the implications of it on us or our children.

There are different kinds of walking for people who want to take it up for any reason. They include bush walking, race walking, weight walking, hill walking, Nordic walking, hiking (also called rambling or tramping), treadmill, etc. Power walking and race walking are among the most popular kinds of walking. Power walking is for people who do not have time to work out but want to keep up with physical activity. Race walking is often for Olympic competitors. And using a treadmill is a popular activity for people who tend to stay indoors for any reason.(www.medicinenet.com) A child starts walking by the age of eleven months to one year. An average person's walking speed is about 5 km/hr. or 3 miles/hr. (www.wikipedia.com)

Benefits of walking include increased stamina, increased life expectancy, increased memory, learning and concentration. It also help manage diabetes, reduces high blood pressure, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, increases bone density, decreases LDL levels and increases HDL levels. Walking aids in mental health by reducing anxiety and depression, among others. Walking is proven to be soft on the knees and feet for people who are prone to osteoporosis. Not only that, it also reduces the risk of hip fractures in post- menopausal women. Walking also helps reduce the risk of breast and bone cancer.

The beauty of walking is that it does not requires expensive gear. All you need is a pedometer, good walking shoes, sunscreen lotions, a wide brimmed hat, a pair of sunglasses that have UV protection and comfortable clothing. For people with flat feet, less cushion in the mid-sole is recommended, and people with high arch do better in cushioned soles. According to medicinenet.com, people who want to see what types of shoes will fit them best should wet their feet and print the sole on the floor. If the most of the foot touches the floor than you have flat feet. If only some part of the foot prints than you might need a pair of shoes with more cushion in the mid-sole. Always make sure that there is a half-inch space between the big toe and the tip of the shoe.

Walking doesn't typically end up causing injuries to the feet like jogging or running, and as a bonus, with the right posture it can improve your speed, comfort and enjoyment. Do not over stride the feet as this can cause you to tend to lose balance and gait that eventually leads to foot problems. Taking shorter and quicker steps to gain speed not only keeps you in balance but helps you keep your torso straight. Make sure the whole of your foot gets in contact with the ground heel to toe. Roll the foot forward and push off with toes while rotating hips backward and forward and twisting the waist. Leaning forward with your torso not only makes you lose balance but also slows you down. Elbows should be at a 90-degree angle to the waist while moving back and forth. Arms should be closer to the body. Increase the swinging of arms in order to gain speed. (www.medicine net.com)

When walking moderately a person should feel the warm and slightly out of breath. A brisk walk should let you carry out a conversation without struggling for breath. If you don't have enough time to walk, an interval walking program is the best to get the same benefits. Interval walking involves 10-15 minutes of power walking three to four times a day. Increasing your speed should be done gradually as it may wear you out sooner. Start off with a 2-3 minute power walk and slow down to a normal pace for another couple of minutes. Repeat the pattern until you get comfortable with speed. Three to five times a week anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes each time is recommended to get the maximum benefits of walking.

It doesn't have to be stressful to think of exercising or working out. We walk every day of our lives anyway so why not increase it with a little speed to make the most out of it? Walking is the least expensive and least physically and time demanding exercise that gives us long term benefits. Similar to the saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," it's also true that "Thirty minutes of walking a day keeps the health intact for life," because, OUR LIFE MATTERS.

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EmpowHER Guest

Brisk walking can also promote weight loss and shed excess body fat, particularly in old age as your metabolism begins to slow and gaining weight gets easier.
Brisk walking benefits

March 22, 2011 - 1:14am
EmpowHER Guest

It is always gratifying to read about somone's discovery that getting off the couch, out of the car and out of the house is the easiest most enjoyable way to get healthier and leaner -- perhaps even more so when a youngster has that revelation. This post inspired one of my own (http://bit.ly/fEOMvP), noting that if walking is good, adding poles is even better. Claire @ http://www.nordic-walking-usa.com.

February 25, 2011 - 7:31am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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