Denver, Boulder and the rest of Colorado are the ideal areas for exercise walking. Exercise experts agree that there is no healthier exercise for us than a brisk walk for 30 minutes to an hour a day, and that hour can be split up into short segments several times daily if a single solid time is unavailable.
A walking program has the additional advantage of being accessible to almost everyone anywhere. It requires no special equipment, club membership, expensive investment, special clothing other than comfortable shoes, and special athletic skills are not a necessary. For those of you who might be skeptical of the benefits of walking as your sole (no pun intended) exercise program, consider the following:
1. Walking is humankind’s most natural exercise at any age. Of all exercises it is the safest and least traumatic to body and joints. We’ve been designed to walk great distances at remarkable speeds. Running was meant only for short spurts during the hunt or emergencies. We weren’t designed or built to withstand the punishment of long continuous running or jogging which require lifting the body weight completely off the ground and landing on bent knees with each jarring stride.
2. Walking exercises the entire body and mind. It utilizes the upper body more than running and the legs far more than swimming. In a vigorous, brisk walk there is virtually no muscle group in your body at rest. And as you will learn later on, walking stimulates mental and creative activity as well as reducing stress.
3. Walking will develop your endurance within safe boundaries faster than any other aerobic sport. No other sport can provide you with the benefits you will be getting from your walking program in as short a time as a week from now.
4. Your waking program will give you the best cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary (aerobic) workout you can get and with the greatest margin of safety.
5. Walking can be done by virtually anyone, anytime, anywhere. It is probably the most indulged in sport in the world. Over 40% of Americans will tell you that walking is their main source of exercise … and Americans are newcomers to the sport.
6. Walking is a family sport, one of the few that all ages can participate in equally and together.
7. We call walking a sport because it is a competitive event even to the Olympic level should, you want to pursue it. Race walking is becoming popular throughout the United States as it has been in other parts of the world for decades. Competition is usually broken down into age groups so competition can be pursued at all ages into the eighties and older. Races are also divided into men’s and women’s divisions and are usually broken down into 5, 10, 30 and 50 kilometer events. It is interesting to note that an Olympic or World Class race walker is among the best conditioned athletes in the world.
8. If you’re not interested in that kind of competition … and most of us aren’t … the competition you’ll have against yourself will be all you need to keep you going toward ever increasing goals.
9. You’ll probably burn more calories, exercise your heart, lungs and circulation better, lose more weight and develop your body and mind further than you could in any other activity. In addition walking will lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and cholesterol levels and take off up to one pound of fat a week even if you don’t alter your eating habits.
Sound too good to be true? You’ve heard nothing yet! The book HEALTHWALK, by Bob Carlson and O.J. Seiden, MD; Fulcrum, Inc.; ISBN # 1-55591-028-9, lists the following as benefits of walking:
1. It reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease by increasing the blood flow and size and tone of the vessels.
2. It strengthens the muscles of the body including the heart muscle and makes them work more efficiently.
3. It slows the heart rate by increasing the stroke volume, the volume of blood the heart is able to pump with one contraction.
4. It tends to reduce the height to which arterial pressure rises during exercise and stress.
5. It encourages collateral circulation to the heart muscle. This can dramatically increase your chances of surviving a coronary occlusion were it to happen.
6. It reduces depositing of storage fat.
7. It improves digestion and elimination of body wastes.
8. It increases the oxygen supply to the brain and increases mental sharpness. It potentiates creative thought processes.
9. It tends to retard the aging process and gives a more youthful appearance.
10. It aids lymphatic circulation and blood circulation in general.
11. It stimulates the metabolism and the effect continues burning calories for hours after the cessation of exercise.
12. It increases respiratory capacity and aerobic power.
13. It benefits body growth and recovery from trauma.
14. It reduces blood fat or triglyceride levels.
15. It reduces insomnia and provides for better relaxation.
16. It reduces the incidence of minor illnesses, allergies, headaches and abdominal problems.
17. It improves coordination by activating neurotransmitters and training muscle fibers.
18. It increases flexibility of the joints and muscles and thus reduces aches and pains in the back, neck, and other body joints.
19. It circulates more oxygen to all body tissues.
20. It creates a better balance between oxygen required by the tissues and the oxygen made more readily available through exercise.
21. It tones up the glandular systems and increases thyroid gland output.
22. It increases the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow.
23. It increases the ability to store and utilize nutrients which increases endurance.
24. It augments the alkaline reserve of the body which can be significant in an emergency requiring extended effort.
25. It gives a feeling of muscular strength by toning all the body muscles.
26. It counteracts feelings of fatigue.
27. It augments a chemical action which increases the potential of body cells.
28. It causes muscles to move vital fluids throughout the body which in turn lessens the work done by the heart.
29. It has a stabilizing effect on blood pressure and normalizes it.
30. It releases the flow of endorphins which are the body’s own tranquilizers.
31. It has a hardening and strengthening effect on bones of the entire skeletal system.
32. It provides a reserve of body strength and physical efficiency.
33. It betters the ratio between high density and low density components of cholesterol which lessens the risk of artery disease and many cancers.
34. It greatly improves mental outlook, optimism, morale and self esteem.
So there you are. With all that walking can do for you, you can’t help but improve your physical and mental status. The time is now to begin turning your life around. Step number one is to make an appointment with your personal medical advisor and discuss your intentions with him or her. Let him or her help you to set some realistic goals. And start walking!
For more fitness information see read “Heavy and Healthy – forget your weight and get fit” and/or “the Second Half Begins at 50.” See www.boomerbookseries.com