Friday Fitness Tips: Walking Your Way to Good Health

Taking steps towards good healthOne of the simplest, safest, and least expensive ways to exercise is by walking. Walking may seem like more of a mode of transport than a form of exercise, but it really is one of the best things you can do for your body, your long-term health and overall wellness. While you thought you were just getting from here to there, those steps were improving your cardiovascular strength, strengthening your muscles (which means more fat-burning power) and decreasing your chances of disease. And you can even find ways to walk while you work – such as a walking meeting or a treadmill desk.

IMG_5084 But how fast should you walk? Research has shown that walking at speeds of 3.5 to 4.5 miles an hour – that’s brisk walking, not strolling – produces cardiovascular benefits.

One-Mile Walking Test
If you want to evaluate your general aerobic fitness level, walk one mile as fast as you can and time yourself. Then, compare your results with the following chart.

IMG_5087

Tips and techniques for a walking program:

IMG_5089-01. If you’re inactive but healthy, start with mile-long walks at a pace of three miles per hour five times a week. Over the course of a month, gradually increase your distance to three miles at a pace of four miles per hour five times a week. If you are unable to walk that fast, walk a little farther.

2. You can increase the aerobic benefits of brisk walking in two ways. Swing your arms: your upper body needs a workout too. And as you get used to walking, carry a six-pound backpack or hand weights. You can substitute a briefcase or shopping bag for the backpack.

3. Don’t ride when you can walk. Incorporate walking into your daily routine. If you must take public transportation, get off a few stops early and walk to your destination.

4. If it’s too hot or cold outdoors, you can walk for exercise in your local mall, or in any other climate-controlled environment. Many malls have instituted walking programs sponsored by the American Heart Association.

5. Put variety into your walking program. Take a companion along. Try a different route, particularly leading to hilly territory, which will boost the aerobic benefits. If you get tired, alternate fast walking with strolling.

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