Step by Step: Walking for Fitness
Need to start exercising? What could be easier than walking? Fitness walking reaps as many rewards as other physical activities, and you don't need special equipment or training.
If I could fall
Into the sky
Do you think time
Would pass me by
'Cause you know I'd walk
A thousand miles
If I could
Just see you
The lyrics hail from Vanessa Carlton's 2002 Top 40 song, "A
Thousand Miles." The mileage, of course, is figurative, but what if someone
did decide to walk a tiny fraction of that distance for love, for charity, for
errands, or for exercise? Whatever the reason, it would probably delight many
health professionals who having been touting physical activity as one way to
trim the nation's burgeoning waistline.
More than 60% of American adults are overweight, and about one
out of three is obese, according to the CDC. In the kid department, 15% of 6-
to 19-year-olds are also overweight -- almost double what it was two decades
Sedentary lifestyles have repeatedly been held partially
responsible for the excessive poundage. This is why many groups, including the
American Heart Association (AHA), the National Association for Sport &amp;
Physical Education (NASPE), and AARP, are now promoting campaigns on how to
incorporate physical activity into daily life. And since these organizations
recognize the challenge of getting people moving, many have included fitness
walking into their recommendations.
"Something is better than nothing," says Melane Kinney
Hoffmann, director of health campaigns at AARP. "Everyone, even people who
are totally sedentary, if they get up and do something, that's better than
sitting in a recliner chair."
Besides, traveling by foot is something most people arguably
know how to do, usually without requiring expensive equipment (except for maybe
the shoes, but that's another story). It can be done for any length of time,
and the intensity can be adjusted according to age, health status, and fitness
goal. Plus, there are so many kinds of fitness walking, from strolling to brisk
walking to marathon walking to volkssporting (more on this later).
So "Walk this way!" as the rock group Aerosmith
would shout, and maybe one step could lead to a thousand, and that could lead
to better health.
The Benefits of Fitness Walking
Anna Cottrill says she doubts she would be mobile today if she
had not insisted on her daily strolls. The 66-year-old has had osteoarthritis
in her lower spine since 1979, even once unable to take a step for six months.
Her ailment, however, hasn't flared up since she started her regular
The Fort Worth, Texas, grandmother joined up with a walking
group known as the American Volkssport Association (AVA) and soon became highly
involved with the organization and its affiliates. She is now co-president of
the Tarrant County Walkers, and is second vice president of the Texas
Volkssporting Association. (For the unaware, volkssporting is a German-derived
term describing participation in sports such as walking, swimming, skiing,
snowshoeing, and biking. In Cottrill's case, the sport is obviously