- By: Hamish Hayward
Many people shy away from exercise as they imagine that it will be too taxing for them. It's as if they think that they need to already be fit before they can get in shape. It's hardly surprising that many of us tend to associate getting in shape with high energy fitness routines and getting hot, sweaty and out of breath.
Using similar logic, many people find it hard to imagine that a low intensity, low impact, low injury risk workout could deliver very significant health benefits, help you to lose weight and get in much better shape. However, that's precisely what walking - an activity which requires no special equipment, training or expertise, and one which we all do on a daily basis - can do for you if you do it on a regular basis.
When you look at the health benefits that walking can deliver, your feelings of disbelief are only likely to increase. Walking on a regular basis can help to improve the operating efficiency of the lungs and also lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. It can help to lower your blood pressure. It can help to fight depression, boost your energy levels and help you to sleep better at night. It can help to reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer. Recent studies in the UK even seem to suggest that it may be effective in fighting Alzheimer's disease. It will certainly help you to lose weight and get in shape.
Looking at that list you would be forgiven for thinking that it was an advert for some expensive new dietary supplement or even the latest miracle drug. It's hardly surprising that it can be difficult to credit. It's also worth mentioning that - apart from a comfy pair of shoes - you can start your walking exercise program without any specialized equipment. Neither will it cost you any money - there are no expensive gym membership fees to pay each month. You also have the convenience of being able to fit it into your day whenever it suits you best.
Health professionals seem to agree that we should be targeting 10,000 steps a day on a regular basis in order to get the health benefits previously discussed. That equivalent to just under five miles for most people, although it depends upon your stride length somewhat. It sounds like a fair old distance - but it's easier to achieve than you think. Walk to work and leave the car at home. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Get off the bus a stop before your destination and walk the last leg of your journey. These are just a few examples of ways to increase your daily step count - there are plenty more, and they all add up.
If you are over forty years old, if you have any medical conditions, or if you just haven't exercised for some time, then it would be wise to seek your doctor's advice and opinion before you launch any new fitness regime. However, as long as you start off slowly and build up over time, walking will improve your health and fitness levels. More importantly, you will both look and feel much better.