Lose five kilos. Firm your body. Be healthy and fit. That’s what you want but: dieting makes you irritable; jogging you find a bore; running is just too painful. How about walking? If you want to lose weight, tone muscles, build endurance, why not try a low-risk, high-yield exercise that involves no more than putting one foot in front of the other?
Too many people have the idea that walking means dragging along for a little bit. Ask yourself honestly, how much walking have you done this week? Moving at a brisk pace. Not just from the house to the car or from the parking lot to the nearest office building or shops.
Walking is nature’s way of assisting the blood in its journey back to the heart. With each step you take, the muscles of the legs squeeze against the veins, helping to pump the blood upward against gravity – that is why the leg muscles have been called a second heart.
Walking, if vigorous, is an excellent aerobic exercise. That is, it makes the heart and lungs work harder and take in more oxygen to fuel the working muscles. And the greater the ability of the body to absorb oxygen, the more fit it becomes.
There are certain advantages that walking has over other aerobic exertions. For one thing, it is free and instantly available. And it can be done just about anywhere. It doesn’t involve a lot of expensive gear, comfortable shoes are the main thing.
It is also an ideal activity for anyone who is overweight or out of shape. And because you are earthbound, rather than airborne for successive instants, as with jogging, it spares your joints and tendons that traumatic thump that comes every time you land.
To put walking back into your daily life, try relying on foot power more, horsepower less.
But short spurts of activity are not enough for endurance and fitness. You really need a regular exercise plan. Try the “rubberband method” for building endurance.
In this plan, you increase the distance before you upgrade the intensity. Work up gradually to a goal of about six and a half kilometers an hour; just under five kilometres an hour as adequate dynamic exercise if your capacity is low; five and a half kilometres an hour as usually good dynamic aerobic exercise, six and a half kilometres as definitely dynamic and aerobic. Once you get much above that speed, you are likely to break into a jog.
In addition to conditioning the heart, there are other benefits in walking. It aids digestion and elimination, increases their energy level, combats insomnia and makes them feel better. When they get in shape, they seem to require less sleep.
You should combine a dietary program with a sensible exercise program that uses aerobic activities like walking, jogging, running or cycling in order to prevent excessive loss of muscle tissue.
And a diet-exercise combination makes sense for another reason, you neither have to walk yourself into the ground nor be hungry all the time. Since it takes an expenditure of 3,500 calories to lose 450 grams of body fat, cutting back 500 calories a day will result in 450g less every week. But you can lose those 450g by eating only 240 calories less and walking an hour at a comfortable pace.
Remember that the number of calories burned by physical activity will vary according to body size, a heavier person has to use more energy than a slimmer one for the same activity. In one hour, that difference becomes really significant, the larger woman expending 415 calories to the 240 calories used by the lighter person.
Natalia Moore is a fitness researcher and freelance blogger from LifeTips. She wants to make quality fitness accessible to everybody by sharing informative Health & Fitness articles.
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