Walking for health? The benefits of fitness walking certainly repay some study!
"I have two doctors, my left leg and my right."- George Trevelyan, 1913
It's so easy not to walk in the modern world!
The benefits of fitness walking - walkers get the best views!
Studies of prehistory and primitive societies show that walking is what we are built for; throughout the millennia of human development people have walked and walked.
We walked to follow herds of wild and domestic animals, we walked to find new lands, we walked to find wives and husbands and to meet with kinsmen from afar.
Everywhere we walked!
Now we know just how beneficial it is to walk but we haven't the time. Not having the time, we lose the ability to walk properly, becoming unfit and flabby, so that walking even a short way becomes a struggle!
Young children prepare for a future in their automobiles when their parents strap them into their pushchairs. Bored older children stare out from their cocooned car seats, the sedan chairs of the modern world... Meanwhile, signs of developing heart disease can be detected in children as young as eight.
We all know the temptations of the car... Why walk when you can ride?
The urban environment in many places becomes less and less appealing as a space for walking. Why walk when the streets are heavy with diesel fumes? Why walk when the noise of cars and lorries is so deafening that you cannot hear what your companion is saying? Why walk when you might get mugged or assaulted on the street? Why walk when there is a dance to be done to avoid the discarded chip wrappers and dog excrement littering the pavements? Why walk when you have things to carry? Or when it's doing that horizontal rain thing or when the wind is blowing up grit into your eyes?
Yes, we can all summon up a dozen different reasons not to walk. But walking is what the human body is designed for and walking delivers up some seriously good health benefits.
Here below are some of the benefits of fitness walking as a deliberate route to health.
Yet, we all know that walking can be marvellous. The sun on your face, natural sounds and sights, time to breathe, time to think; walking can help our inner state of peace and equilibrium and can help put some perspective back into out lives when pressures are crowding in on us.
Here's some more of the benefits that walking can give you.
The benefits of fitness walking:
Walking regularly will almost certainly help your body to maintain (or regain) normal blood pressure. Your risks of heart disease and strokes will be lowered, too. Here are some specific health benefits of walking.
Walking can help with fat metabolism and make you less at risk from high blood cholesterol.
If you walk regularly you are far less likely to be overweight. Regular walkers don't tend to have excess body fat. Walking, along with a proper diet, can help overweight people shed the excess and return to a trim figure.
If weight loss is an issue for you, it may help to know that the calories burned by walking are considerable, especially if you walk briskly. On average we burn around 100 Kilocalories for every mile we walk. That might not sound a lot but if you make a walking program part of your daily life it can certainly stack up as a weight loss method.
This book is a helpful guide to walking for fitness and health.
Walking has been shown to reduce the risks of colon cancer. Non-insulin-dependent diabetes, too can be controlled better when walking is part of the patient's regime.
Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are both affected positively by walking. Load-bearing exercise such as walking helps to improve bone density, making bones stronger and less prone to fractures. Flexibility and suppleness of muscles and joints is maintained and even enhanced. Elderly people are less likely to fall or injure themselves because regular walking builds up and maintains muscle tone and keeps joints and ligaments working smoothly.
In this and other respects, walking helps to delay and retard signs of ageing.
Then there are the effects upon the mind and emotions. Walking can help to improve your mood (avoid the scenarios mentioned above, the doggy do and the urban racket and pollution for best effects!)
Picture: winter trees - walking in natural spaces soothes the mind
Walking can help you to regain lost perspective after a row or unpleasantness between people or stress at work. Walking has been shown to relieve depression and anxiety. It's one of the best stress-busters, too. (See here for more techniques for beating stress.) And it's generally hard not to sleep well after a good long walk. Studies have shown that walking can help relieve chronic insomnia.
The benefits of fitness walking:
So, what's the best amount of walking to do for good health?
How much walking you do obviously depends upon a multitude of factors. But a good minimum regime is 30 minutes a day of brisk walking.
"Brisk is best" as the Rambling Association puts it.
If you have less time, 10 minutes of brisk walking has been shown to be almost as good. Beyond that, the limits need only be set by your time constraints. If work pressures are a factor, a good walk will often help the strategic thinking you need to make your work more time-efficient or more successful, so it is not time wasted.
The best plan is to find a convenient way to slot walking into your daily routine. A dog is an obvious ally and will help you get out regardless of the weather. Dropping off the bus or metro a few stops short of your workplace can be a practical solution for some.
Whatever method you use for increasing your walking, you will surely reap the benefits in better health and vitality.
Catch them early! Early walking develops strength and fitness.
In the UK there are now "walking buses" in some areas. Children get picked from their homes and they walk to school in an organised group with parents and helpers at the front and rear. You can find out about them here: Safe Kids Walking
There are grants available from the UK government to help set them up.
Living Streets, the UK charity which promotes the rights of pedestrians, organises a National Walking Month, together with Walk England:
Living Streets and Walk England are the websites to consult. It usually takes place in May - perhaps the most wonderful time of the year to experience the benefits of fitness walking. There is now an increasing number of walking festivals in Britain in the summer months. Check your local tourist office for such events and become part of the walking revolution!