High intensity exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Walking is an often underestimated option that almost anybody can do. Recent studies of elderly walkers in Japan have watched the effects of casual-pace walking versus higher-paced aerobic walking. The results clearly highlighted a boost in fitness for those who walked at a high pace.
The study gives hope to people who have previously shied away from high intensity exercise that they are not conditioned yet to do, such as jogging or spin classes for example. The study had adults between age 44-78 do intervals of high intensity walking for 30 minutes 3 times per week for 5 months.
The benefits? Improved aerobic fitness, blood pressure, and leg strength. Also notable is that 70% of those folks were still doing this walking program 2 years later and still saw results. This is a sign that the walking workout program is a sustainable one.
Who needs a walking program? If you fall under any of these categories, you should start one:
- Sitting a desk or in a car all day.
- Increasing in age.
- Sitting in class a lot.
- Watching a lot of TV.
- Any other prolonged sitting.
- Starting a workout regimen.
- Workout regularly.
- Just completed an athletic event.
- Professional athlete.
- You have a pulse.
You get the point – everyone can benefit! What surprised me the most was that athletes also can see improvements in their fitness from walking, not by replacing regular workouts with it, but by adding it into their daily activities. That means when I go on city walking tours with my family, I’m still working towards my goals in cycling.
Given that around half of Americans do not participate in any exercise whatsoever, starting with walking can make a big difference for them. I just spent a week visiting extended family, some of whom were 150 pounds overweight all of the previous times I had seen them. Surprised to see one of my uncles had lost 90lbs and another 30lbs, and an aunt was beginning triathlon training, I was encouraged that they had for once decided to take action and make better habits. And they weren’t doing much more for exercise yet than walking!
Walking can be incorporated into everyday activities. For example, you can park in the farthest parking spot and speed walk to the store. If you take public transportation, you can speed walk between your house or work and the stations. If you’re a round-the-clock parent at home, you can take your kids out in the stroller for a speed walk or speed walk around a park track while they’re on the playground. Take a lunch walk, if you’re a 9-to-5er who has to sit most of the day. Not sure if you’re doing enough? Fitness trackers help you count steps, and 7-10,000 is a good beginning goal. And the intensity depends on your fitness level, but the idea is to do some intervals of a pace that pushes your comfort zone!
Let’s pause and consider “The Lunch Walk” – a study highlighting a 10-week period of lunch walks asked participants to track their mood in addition to their fitness, which was compared to a control group who didn’t start their walks until the end of the study. Not only did everyone who walked the 30 minutes 3 times per week see the predicted health benefits (improved aerobic fitness, blood pressure, and leg strength), they also had much better moods, felt relaxed, and more enthusiastic for the rest of the work day on those days. The direct correlation with productivity was not studied, but having a more positive mood is generally linked with higher productivity.
What if walking every day now prevented your future stroke? One hour a day cuts the risk by 30%, and a 3 hour walk cuts it by 60%! And the pace doesn’t even matter.
What if you could walk now to avoid later pulmonary diseases? What if you could walk to reduce stress, to have more energy and enthusiasm for life?
Wouldn’t you do it?