Walking is a form of activity that most of us engage in daily. In addition to being an activity of normal daily living, it is also a good form of exercise. It is best thought of as a low intensity activity. It is generally safe, produces little injury, and is inexpensive. It suffers a bit from being such a natural and uncomplicated form of exercise that many doubt the benefits that it confers. There are significant benefits. Careful medical studies carried out over a decade have confirmed the health benefits of walking as exercise.
Generally significant walkers (those that walk a mile or more daily) have half the mortality rate measured as deaths per year of individuals with only limited walking. The benefits seem to correlate best with the distance walked rather than the speed or effort expended in walking. There can be little question that walking is beneficial exercise.
Important Points in Application
Who can benefit from walking? Anyone except, perhaps, individuals who for medical reasons have had to limit their exercise. There are a few individuals who because of illness have had their exercise limited and rest prescribed. Patients with heart failure often fall into that category. There are also some patients who must restrict walking because of potential damage to weightbearing joints or because of inflammation in the legs. Patients with infections involving the joints or legs are examples. Most patients who can walk safely can exercise safely by walking. If you have any questions about the safety of walking as exercise, discuss them with your physician.
How much walking should you do? Real benefit occurs when you walk more than one mile. It is unwise to walk so far that you become fatigued. Often there is a period of conditioning or training necessary when beginning any kind of exercise. You should also remember that the distance walked seems more important than the speed at which you walk. By walking slowly, it is often possible to achieve your target distance without unnecessary fatigue. It is both reasonable and effective to split your daily walk into two or more shorter walks that together achieve your goal.
It is unwise to walk so far or so rapidly that it causes symptoms. When walking is suggested by your physician as part of the treatment for an underlying medical condition, it is best initiated under the direction of a therapist.
- Walk in a safe environment.
- Dress appropriately for the season and the weather.
- Select well-fitting shoes. Shoes designed for walking not only protect your feet but also help to prevent falls.
Call Our Office If ...
- You wish to begin a program of walking as exercise but are concerned about the possible effects on your health.