Get Results with Fitness Walking
Easy-To-Do Exercise Brings a Bushel of Benefits
Why Fitness Walk? continued...
As an active member of volkssporting groups, she and her husband have
traveled by foot in all 50 states, and are now working on traversing through
all the state capitals. They have met many friends through treks and have seen
people begin lifelong relationships.
Fitness walking "gives people purpose to get out and do something,"
says Cottrill. "It improves their health, it improves their blood pressure,
they can lose weight, and it just keeps them flexible."
Cottrill's observations correspond well with the scientific research on
physical activity. According to the AHA, vigorous activities that include brisk
walking and moderate activities that include walking for pleasure can help
reduce the following risk factors for heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- Obesity and overweight
- High levels of triglycerides
- Low levels of HDL ("good" cholesterol)
Additionally, Richard Stein, MD, AHA spokesman, says fitness walking is easy
to do and can achieve the same cardiovascular benefits as many forms of
"The heart is really a very nice organ," he says. "It really
doesn't know whether you're walking barefoot on the beach or you're in $4,000
Nike gear in a million-dollar treadmill."
Good forms of exercise supposedly include activities that burn fat, use
large muscle groups, or happen over long distances, particularly if there is no
For older people afflicted with arthritis, Hoffmann says fitness walking can
actually ease pain instead of cause it. "There is a huge body of research
that shows that the symptoms of arthritis are usually relieved by walking, that
if people will get up and get moving, they will find that their joints will get
better and they will be less stiff and less sore."
At the other end of the spectrum, walking can also help meet children's
health needs, says Charles Corbin, MD, author of the NASPE's physical activity
guidelines. "Kids need to expend enough calories during the day to maintain
desirable weight," he says. "Plus, they need to expend energy
consistent with building bones and muscles for fitness and normal growth and
The Basics of Fitness Walking
Most people may think they've mastered this skill at toddler age, but
certain steps apparently need to be taken in order to maximize the health
benefits of going by foot:
Timetable: The Surgeon General recommends
moderate amounts of activities such as a brisk walk of at least 30 minutes a
day every day for overall health. The NASPE proposes that kids get more -- from
60 minutes up to several hours of physical activity (which includes walking) a
day -- on most, if not all days of the week. People looking to lose weight are
encouraged by the AARP to hit the pavement at least an hour a day for most
days. For heart, lung, and circulation health, the AHA suggests 30 minutes of
vigorous activity (including walking) a day, three to four times a week. Many
of these guidelines allow time requirements to be non-continuous, with bouts of
physical activity sprinkled throughout the day.