Press-Republican

Columns

May 28, 2013

Walking an underrated form of exercise

Many people may not recognize the importance of walking. 

It is something we do every day and rarely think about. However, there are real benefits to walking, and it is certainly a great activity on beautiful sunny days. It is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to increase your physical activity level and improve your overall health.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that increases bone density but is easy on joints. Bone density is important, especially for aging women at risk of osteoporosis. 

Other benefits include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and obesity. Walking also conditions lower extremity muscles, which help pump blood back to the heart, improve circulation, muscular endurance and balance.

There are numerous muscles that are engaged during walking, including the knee extensors (quadriceps); hip extensors (hamstrings and gluteal muscles); lower legs (gastrocnemius and soleus in the back and tibialis anterior on the front); and arch muscles in the feet. 

Keeping these muscles conditioned is crucial to a successful walking program.

WELL-FITTED SHOES

It is a given that walking shoes or sneakers are needed for this activity. However, it is important to wear a shoe that is well-fitted and has the correct amount of cushion. 

Individuals with any ankle issues may need additional ankle support. Proper arch support and flexible soles are necessary, as well. Clothing should be appropriate for weather and climate. Sunglasses and sunscreen should be worn in order to protect you from harmful UV rays. 

As always in exercise, proper hydration is necessary in order to maintain good health.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends people participate in a walk or other moderate intensity exercise for 150 minutes or more a week for health benefits. 

For weight loss, 250 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity is recommended per week.

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