Walking to Keep Fit

Getting fit, and staying healthy, doesn’t have to be hard. There is an easy way to do it. Almost anyone can do it, it fits into any schedule, and it can be done alone or with a partner.

It isn’t a miracle cure, but at times it sure seems like it. Once you start walking you will become energized. What is this amazing way to achieve and maintain your health?

WALKING!

I know, it sounds too simple. But – here are some statistics:

Reduce your risk of breast cancer by 20%, heart disease by 30-40%, and diabetes and stroke by 50% just by walking 30-60 minutes a day.

But that’s not all, you can also:

Raise your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (which is the good cholesterol)

Lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (which is the bad cholesterol)

Lower your blood pressure

Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety

Maintain lean muscle

Increase cardiovascular endurance

Reduce the pain and joint swelling that accompanies arthritis

Increase weight loss and reduce body fat

If you want to live healthier longer, start now with daily walking or exercise. A study in the November 14, 2005 “Archives of Internal Medicine” showed that exercise levels directly related to years lived without cardiovascular disease. They found that 30 minutes of walking a day adds an average of 1.3 healthy years to your life.

30 Minutes of Walking a Day Adds 1.3 Healthy Years

A moderate level of physical activity, such as walking 30 minutes a day, lengthened life by 1.3 years and added 1.1 more years without cardiovascular disease, compared with those with low activity levels. Those who chose a high physical activity level gained 3.7 years of life and added 3.3 more years without cardiovascular disease. Walking the Dog

Image: federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you are walking at 3.5 m.p.h., in one hour you will burn an amount of calories equal to twice your pounds of body weight. Take that amount of calories and divide it by 3.5 to see how many calories you burn per mile.

Let’s talk about burning fat vs. burning carbohydrates. Many people are confused about this and are making some erroneous exercise choices based on their goals (weight loss, building muscle, etc.).

When you burn fat through exercise your body reacts by replenishing the lost fat, so you will maintain proper reserves that can be used in the future. You are training your body to replace the fat that you are burning.

When you burn carbohydrates, the body first burns the carbohydrates stored in muscle tissue before it starts burning fat. Therefore, your body doesn’t tell itself to replenish the fat, but to replenish the carbs.

What does this mean?

Walking – a low-intensity workout – will allow your body to burn carbohydrates first, and then fat. Walking is a better choice to help you lose weight and build muscle than jogging or aerobics.

When you do low-intensity exercise (like walking), you burn 5-8% protein (or muscle), 70% carbohydrates, and 15% fat. What does this mean? After you’re done walking, your body continues to burn fuel – this means that you are burning fat after you are done with your walk.

When you do high-intensity exercise, you burn 2% protein, 95% carbohydrates, and 3% fat. What does this mean? From a health perspective, it means that you are burning fat throughout the day by depleting your carbohydrates.

In summary, the key to a successful walking regimen is having the motivation to walk every day, to be consistent with your walking, for 30-60 minutes. As with all activities, having the right equipment helps. The key is to have good quality walking shoes. Don’t skimp! This is an area in which you should never cut corners. Walking affects your ankles, knees, hips – your whole body. A good walking shoe should promote the proper mechanics of walking, in which your heel should strike the ground first, and then roll through the step to your toe. People believe that walking is simple. But as with any activity, proper form and equipment will ensure maximum workout and minimum damage to your body.

Personally, I have found MBT shoes to be the best shoes for walking. They are designed based on Masai Barefoot Technology, and promote proper walking form. The proper heel-toe action will both change your stride while walking and greatly increase the effectiveness of your workout. You will get more out of walking if you have the proper form.

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Ed Forteau is the co-publisher of Wandering Educators. His review of MBT Shoes shows how you can increase the health benefits of walking when wearing the right shoes.

Hiking Boots picture courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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