Walking is one of the things that distinguishes man from all other animals, and some 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates even referred to walking as man’s best medicine. Modern research has shown that walking, which is considered moderate exercise, is highly beneficial for overall health and carries less risk of injury than intense aerobic exercises such as running. In fact, research shows that walking may reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by some 31% in both men and women. Such protection has been shown at distances of just 5½ miles per week and at a pace as casual as about 2 miles per hour. Of course, walking longer distances, walking at a faster pace, or both will enhance cardiac protection. Studies have also shown that walking can lower the risk of cardiac diseases, heart attack, stroke and even death, in both men and women. Better still, for people already suffering from heart disease, research has shown that walking for 30 minutes, three times a week, can help reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 26%. And walking is multi-purpose! It helps improve cholesterol, blood pressure, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress, in addition to helping protect against dementia, depression, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer and even erectile dysfunction.
Walking is one exercise that is easier to integrate into your daily lifestyle than you may think. You can walk to work and to the store, or any other nearby destination. If your destination is more than a couple of miles away, give public transportation a try and sneak your exercise in by walking to the train or bus stop, then get off the bus or subway a few stops before your destination. If you must drive, park farther away than you normally would and walk to your destination. You can also break up your day and benefit your health with a short walk at lunchtime.
When you first start walking for health, you may want to keep track of your distance. Pedometers are an easy step-tracking product that range in price based on the bells and whistles they include. In general, begin with routes that are well within your distance range and begin at a modest pace for you. As your fitness level increases, you’ll be able to extend your distances and increase your speed, and even add in challenges such as hilled terrain and timed interval training. To stay motivated, walk with a friend, listen to music, podcasts or even books on tape – anything to help you feel like you’re using your time wisely, and not sacrificing one activity for another. As a rough guide, the current standards suggest able-bodied adults complete moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes, five days per week, compared to intense exercise for 20 minutes, three days per week. As with any new exercise plan, you should consult your Naturopathic Doctor before beginning.
Walking: Your steps to health. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mens_Health_Watch/2009/August/Walking-Your-steps-to-health.