3G Cardio Discusses Walking to Improve Overall Health
By Aaron Dorksen – 3G Cardio Fitness Editor
Recently I received a good question from a loyal reader who stated that they enjoyed one of my blogs about running.
However, they aren’t able to physically run due to knee problems and wondered if the time and effort of a regular walking regimen is worth it.
“I have a hard time running due to knee pain, which seems to be just age related,” the reader wrote. “Can walking be a permanent substitute for running, and still be effective?”
My simplest answer is “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
But I certainly understand why a person might be skeptical. Runners cruising around in the neighborhood, posting social media comments about competing in everything from 5Ks to marathons and even someone running at a high speed on a local gym’s treadmill can look mighty impressive and intimidating to a “walker.”
It can make someone who “just” walks feel a little inferior and question if what they’re doing is worth the time. Likewise, a runner may not think a whole lot as he or she sprints past a walker. Although running requires more exertion, there are great benefits that also can be realized from regular walking.
“Walking is a really good form of exercise and can help you reach your fitness and weight-loss goals,” said John Ford, certified exercise physiologist from New York City, to Brianna Steinhilber of NBCNews.com. “In fact, walking is the suggested workout over running for many people. For example, those with knee, ankle and back problems and also for people who are overweight to obese. Walking is a lower impact exercise and can be done for longer periods of time.”
Slow, brisk and steady gets you fit, too!
A National Runners’ Health Study with the National Walkers’ Health Study concluded that many of the health benefits achieved through running can also be attained from walking.
Moderate-intensity walking and vigorous running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease over the study’s six-year period.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported in a well-known 2002 study that people who got 30 or more minutes of moderate activity, which of course can include walking on a treadmill, five or more days per week, had a 30 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to people who didn’t walk regularly.
Here are seven of the top benefits of walking.
- Walking can help lower the so-called “bad” cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
- Walking can help raise the “good” cholesterol – high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
- Walking can help lower your blood pressure.
- Walking can help reduce your risk of, or manage, type 2 diabetes.
- Walking can help you burn calories and manage your weight.
- As with other forms of exercise, walking can actually help improve your mood.
- Walking can even help reduce the risk of a heart attack. All it takes is just 30 minutes of walking a day, according to the American Heart Association.
Set up a walking plan
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a great 12-week plan to get someone on a path to improved health. Talk with your doctor first if you have major health issues, if you’re older than age 40 and you haven’t engaged in much physical activity recently.
You can do this walking plan outside, on a treadmill, in malls or wherever else you choose. Warm up with an easy 5-minute walk, then walk briskly for the next 5 minutes and finally cool down with a slower pace for the final 5 minutes. Do this at least five times per week.
Each week, increase the brisk walking time in the middle portion 2 minutes longer than the previous week. By Week 12, you’ll warm up for 5 minutes, walk briskly for 30 and cool down for the last 5. You’ll know you’re walking at a safe, brisk pace if you’re breathing hard, but still able to carry on a conversation.
It’s also recommend to perform strength training exercises at least twice a week, making sure to work all the major muscle groups. After completing the 12-week walking plan you’ll look and feel a heckuva lot better than if you’d just been sitting around. And, I guarantee that if someone asks if “just walking does anything” you’ll say “Yes!”
3G Cardio fitness editor Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts people’s lives. Consult a doctor before making any significant changes in your exercise routine or diet. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for future blogs at aaron@3Gcardio.com