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How to Improve Life with Walking

April 16, 2018

 

A group of three women walking for exercise.

Walking is a simple exercise that doesn’t require any equipment, gym membership or expensive workout clothes. But, is walking good exercise? Brenda Husemann, ARNP, UnityPoint Health, assures us walking is great exercise. She tells us the benefits of walking, recommendations to help you develop a walking routine and a few tips to ramp up your stroll for weight loss.

Is Walking Good Exercise?

“Walking is great aerobic exercise. It is considered weight bearing, which is good for your bone strength and health,” Husemann says.

Often, people are out of shape and want to lose weight and get healthier, but they think they need to have a gym membership to workout. However, Husemann advises it’s better to start off slowly and do something you enjoy, like walking.

“If you’re walking for exercise, it should be a brisk walk, enough to raise your heart rate,” Husemann says.

How Much Should You Walk in a Day?

Husemann gives these recommendations for those who are using walking as their only exercise opportunity.

  • Aim for 20 minutes. A minimum time to dedicate to a brisk, short walk is about 20 minutes.
  • Create a steps goal. If you can’t fit in a longer walk all at once, try getting more steps throughout the day. Ten thousand is a great goal.
  • Use a fitness tracker. Aiming for a steps total is better than worrying about how many miles you’ve tracked.
  • Add more cardio. Once you feel more in shape, add in some additional cardio workouts. Perhaps this is the time to join a gym and/or try a new class.

Is Walking Good Exercise to Lose Weight?

Walking helps keep you healthy and can improve your quality of life. But, there are a few ways Husemann says you can ramp up your stroll to help you lose weight.

  • Add ankle or hand weights
  • Walk in a more rugged terrain or an area with hills
  • Find a walking buddy for accountability
  • Walk backward to engage all the muscles in your legs
  • Park at the far end of the row, and don’t wait for a close spot
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator

 “If you feel you can’t do the steps up to your destination, ride the elevator and use the steps going down. Then, the next time you encounter those stairs, make it a goal to walk up the steps as well,” Husemann says.

What are Walking Exercise Benefits?

“I tell people the overall act of adding a short walk or a few thousand extra steps a day can lower their blood pressure, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, elevate their mood and support overall health,” Husemann says.

She identifies these additional five walking exercise benefits:

  • Lowering your cholesterol
  • Reverses aging
  • Repairs old DNA in the body
  • Increases lung function
  • Reduces loss of bone mass with aging

“Walking can be lifesaving. My mother-in-law is 74 years old and walks 10,000 steps or more a day on her fitness tracker, and most days, she walks about five miles. She recently had a devastating health scare that has a 90 percent mortality rate. She was out of ICU in four days, walking the halls. Doctors said if she was not in the physical shape she was in, she would have died suddenly. So, for her, walking and being active saved her life,” Husemann says.

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