Monday, August 15, 2011

If you do ONE thing this week...


With your dog. Around a track. Through your neighborhood. While you travel. If dieting, or better yet eating "right," isn't your thing, it is believed - based on a study conducted by Cris Slentz, Ph.D of the Duke University research team involving sedentary overweight men and women (aged 40-65 years) - that the minimum daily requirement of exercise to prevent weight gain is 30 minutes a day of walking, 3 times per week. A control group of non-exercisers all gained weight and fat during their 8-month study.

Given the increase in obesity in the U.S., it would seem likely that many in our society may have fallen below this minimal level of physical activity required to maintain body weight. This is sad. You must take time for yourself and walking is one of the lowest impact, aerobic activities you can do that has fabulous health benefits.

Wondering what are the top 10 reasons to walk?

1. 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%.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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%.

7. 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.

8. Walking improves fitness. Walking just three times a week for 30 minutes can significantly increase cardiorespiratory fitness.

9. 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).

10. Walking improves physical function. Research shows that walking improves fitness and physical function and prevents physical disability in older persons.

And the list could go on and on. But piggybacking on #8 & 9 above on the topic of fitness; many people are curious on how many calories walking actually burns. In short - a 150-pound man burns 100 calories per mile; a 200-pound man burns 133 calories per mile; and a 250-pound man burns 166 calories per mile. Of course, to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume no matter how much you exercise, so make sure to reduce your calories if you want to lose weight, even if you're walking a lot. Click here to be directed to the Calorie Burn Calculator to find out how many calories you burn during walking at different speeds and body weight.

Wondering what is a good average walking speed?

A good average walking speed is 3 to 4 miles per hour (mph) and depends on your leg length and how quickly you can move your legs. You may need to start at a slower pace if you're out of shape, but you will build up quickly if you walk regularly. Once you exceed 4 mph, it gets tricky because you don't know if you should walk or run. Proper speed-walking technique will help at fast speeds. And yes, treadmill and outdoor walking yield the same benefits but set the treadmill elevation to 1% to mimic outdoor walking.

If you're super busy and can't seem to find 90 measly minutes in your week (3 - 30 minute walks), I encourage you to split up the 30 minutes into 3 - 10 minute bouts. Here are some suggestions to incorporate walking into your day and accumulate 30 minutes:

Get off the bus before your destination (you may even save time this way).

Park your car farther from the store.

Take a walk at lunch instead of having your food delivered.

Walk for errands instead of driving short distances.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator or even escalator.

Get rid of your riding lawnmower or for most, mow your own lawn.

Keep your walking shoes handy. Leave a pair at your office or trunk of your car for quick 10-minute stress-reducing walks.

So this week I encourage you to think of and set a weekly plan for walking if you struggle with motivation or sticking with it. Planning increases compliance. Write down the day(s) of the week you'll walk, the time of day, how many minutes, and where you'll do it (location). Set and review your weekly plan every week for three months and then reevaluate at that time.

There you have it. It's as simple as walking out the door. And you'll be in good company. Walking is the most popular physical activity among adults in the United States. It doesn't take all that much time (you can incorporate it into your life), you've been doing it your entire life, you can do it just about anywhere, there are plenty of health and fitness benefits, and you'll feel good once you get going. How hard is it to incorporate 30 minutes of walking into your daily routine? Maybe you need to cut the time you spend on Facebook and Pinterest in half. All I ask is that you don't cut out the time you spend reading this blog! ;)

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