Benefits of walking:
The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes or more of accumulated moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days per week to improve health and fitness. "Accumulated" means you can do it in shorter bouts throughout the day (for example, 10- or 15-minute intervals throughout the day), and "moderate intensity" means you feel warm and slightly out of breath when you do it. Walking counts!
Tips on techniques
The technique for brisk walking, whether it's power- or racewalking, is the same. Below are some tips on technique.
- A common mistake for beginners when trying to walk fast is lengthening the stride (overstriding). Overstriding is biomechanically inefficient and can slow you down. It will burn more calories because it's inefficient (which might be a good thing), but you may burn fewer calories overall because you don't walk as far due to fatigue.
- Instead of overstriding to walk faster, concentrate on a powerful push off while the front foot lands closer to the body. This is what elite walkers do.
- Walk heel to toe and not flatfooted to increase speed.
- Contact the ground with your heel.
- Roll the foot forward over the center of your foot.
- Push off with your toes.
- Rotate your hips forward and backward as you walk.
- Your waist should twist. Racewalkers can look funny because of the hip rotation but restricted hip movement decreases your speed.
- Keep your torso upright. Leaning forward or back will slow you down.
- Keep your elbows at 90 degrees.
- Keep your hands relaxed.
- Swing your arms forward and back and keep them close to your body. Your hands should not cross the midline of your body to maintain efficiency.
- Speed up your arm swing to increase your speed and your legs will follow! This really works!
Head, neck, and shoulders
- Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed. Head should be upright, eyes looking forward.
Top 10 reasons to walk
Walking prevents type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that walking 150 minutes per week and losing just 7% of your body weight (12-15 pounds) can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%.
- Walking strengthens your heart if you're male. In one study, mortality rates among retired men who walked less than one mile per day were nearly twice that among those who walked more than two miles per day.
- Walking strengthens your heart if you're female. Women in the Nurse's Health Study (72,488 female nurses) who walked three hours or more per week reduced their risk of a heart attack or other coronary event by 35% compared with women who did not walk.
- Walking is good for your brain. In a study on walking and cognitive function, researchers found that women who walked the equivalent of an easy pace at least 1.5 hours per week had significantly better cognitive function and less cognitive decline than women who walked less than 40 minutes per week. Think about that!
- Walking is good for your bones. Research shows that postmenopausal women who walk approximately one mile each day have higher whole-body bone density than women who walk shorter distances, and walking is also effective in slowing the rate of bone loss from the legs.
- Walking helps alleviate symptoms of depression. Walking for 30 minutes, three to five times per week for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of depression as measured with a standard depression questionnaire by 47%.
- Walking reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer. Women who performed the equivalent of one hour and 15 minutes to two and a half hours per week of brisk walking had an 18% decreased risk of breast cancer compared with inactive women. Many studies have shown that exercise can prevent colon cancer, and even if an individual person develops colon cancer, the benefits of exercise appear to continue both by increasing quality of life and reducing mortality.
- Walking improves fitness. Walking just three times a week for 30 minutes can significantly increase cardiorespiratory fitness.
- Walking in short bouts improves fitness, too! A study of sedentary women showed that short bouts of brisk walking (three 10-minute walks per day) resulted in similar improvements in fitness and were at least as effective in decreasing body fatness as long bouts (one 30-minute walk per day).
- Walking improves physical function. Research shows that walking improves fitness and physical function and prevents physical disability in older persons.
The list goes on, but if I continued, there'd be no time for you to start walking! Suffice to say that walking is certainly good for you!
Jogging and running are aerobic exercises (activities that elevate your heart rate for sustained periods of time), and so that means they have lots of health benefits. Research proves that aerobic exercise can:
- decrease your risk of heart disease,
- decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes,
- help control blood pressure,
- strengthen your bones,
- strengthen your muscles,
- increase your stamina,
- improve your mood,
- decrease symptoms of depression,
- decrease your risk of certain cancers (breast and colon), and
- reduce the risk of dementia.