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Walking is easy, inexpensive, amazingly good for you, and has few undesirable side effects. Yet it is all too often overlooked when people consider which form of exercise is best for them.
The results surprised even JoAnn Manson, MD, MPH, DrPH, and she is supposed to know all about the subject. "No, I didn't realize just how effective walking was," says Dr. Manson, the co-director of women's health at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "We always knew that walking was effective, but after looking at the results, I am surprised that walking is not readily adopted by more people."
The results came from a study presented by Dr. Manson and her colleagues at a meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA). The study, part of an eight-year research project of 84,000 female nurses ages 40-65, reported that women who walked for at least three hours a week had a 30%-40% lower risk of
than women who did not walk. The study also suggested that the brisker the walk, the greater the health benefit.
"The benefits of walking are just not well appreciated," says Dr. Manson. "There is still a misperception among the public that in order to achieve any health benefit, you have to exercise vigorously or be a marathon runner. And that is just not true."
Walking Offers a Variety of Benefits With Few Risks TOP
There are numerous benefites to walking. Here are a few of them:
Walking is inexpensive, requiring little equipment other than a pair of sturdy shoes. There are no fees to pay, no courses to drive to, and it is easy to do.
It is one of the safest forms of exercise. Walkers stand little chance of developing
tennis elbow, or torn muscles, cartilage, or ligaments.
Walking is one of the most efficient, low-impact workouts available.
Although walking is safe and dependable, do not start any sort of exercise regimen without first consulting your doctor. Once you have received a clean bill of health, keep these points in mind.
Start Slow and Build Up
If you are what the experts call chronically sedentary, do not try walking 10 miles the first time you get off the couch. Start off with a small goal in mind, like walking for 10 minutes at a time, then slowly build up how long you are walking.
Keep in mind, especially if you are just starting to walk, that you have to come back from where you have walked. Make sure you can cover the entire distance comfortably, and not just the first part of it.
That brisk pace of 3-4 miles per hour is not as daunting as it seems. It works out to a mile every 15-20 minutes. And people who are new to exercising do not have to hit that speed immediately to benefit from walking. The Nurses' study pointed out that people with a slower pace had a 32% reduction in heart disease compared with people who did not walk at all.
A pedometer allows you to measure how many steps you take daily. With a pedometer you can incorporate walking activities into your daily life and keep a record of how far you walk. Set new goals to increase the amount of steps you take each day. Pedometers are now readily available and quite inexpensive. They can help you guide and evaluate your exercise activities.
Walking strengthens the large leg muscles, including the quadriceps and the gluteus muscles. However, it will not give you a body-building physique. If you want that, you will have to
lift weights. Walking alone is not a terrific way to
—you have to combine regular exercise with a reduced-calorie diet. Do expect walking to make you feel better, both physically and mentally!
Dr. Manson hopes that more people will realize what walking has to offer. So, get up, lace up your sneakers, and
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Selecting and effectively using a walking program. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed January 30, 2013.
Start walking now. American Heart Association Start Walking Now website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed January 30, 2013.
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