“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” – Thomas Jefferson
Humans have been walking longer than the known historical record. It is conceivable that before any animals, such as horses, were domesticated enough to serve as a mount for a human, people walked everywhere, all the time.
The human body is, from all appearances, especially adapted for walking and the walking gait is the most natural form of movement for most everyone.
But most people don’t think of walking as exercise, per se, and almost no one considers walking as a “workout” like one would have in a fitness gym, for example.
Yet the evidence supports the contention that not only is walking a valid form exercise, but that it plays a significant role in weight loss, aerobic and cardio fitness, and can provide great mental and emotional health.
Walking is Not for Wimps
While anyone who is capable can walk, it takes some real effort to pursue a strenuous regimen of what is known as fitness walking.
As one fitness website notes,
“Fitness walking is serious exercise, yet it is the safest and most natural activity for health and fitness. It is brisk, vigorous walking – usually from 3-1/2 to 5 miles per hour. It is walking with determination, moving forward with purpose and control as if you had someplace to go.”
Another walking expert described the ideal pace as one that is fast enough that you feel it would be easier to break into a slow jog. While a slower walking pace is perfectly fine, and will still provide health benefits, this faster pace is what’s needed to attain a proper level of cardio intensity.
But this doesn’t mean that fitness walking is only reserved for athletes or younger individuals. Fitness walkers can be any age and level of physical fitness.
Benefits of Walking
The benefits include:
- Improved heart strength and efficiency
- Tones and strengthens muscles and bones
- Preserves lean muscle while burning fat
- Speeds up the body’s ability to burn calories for energy
- Improves self-image, releases stress.
In addition, walking can help clear your mind and “de-stress”, while the aerobic impact gives you energy. Walking, including fitness walking, is a low impact activity, which helps your joints, especially the knees hips and ankles.
It’s estimated that the impact from walking is equivalent to about 1-1/2 times your body weight, versus three times the body weight impact experienced while running.
Compared to most every other form of exercise and workout options, walking is Inexpensive, convenient and easy. There is no equipment nor gym facilities required. In fact, all that is needed is comfortable, supportive shoes. It can be done just about anywhere and, in any weather, and for most everyone – walking is natural – no training or coaching required.
Another benefit of walking as exercise is that you can enjoy your surroundings, have conversations, or simply relax and think – even meditate – while moving. These are often difficult things to do when engaged in most other workouts or exercise regimens.
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about a leisurely stroll through the park, or a few easy circuits at the mall, although even these activities are great to combat the effects of a largely sedentary lifestyle. We’re speaking of a somewhat strenuous pace that is elevating your heart rate and working most of the same muscles used in running.
But without the typical physical stress and fatigue that comes with running and other cardio-intensive exercises.
An article at NBCNews.com noted that,
“When comparing the results of the most recent National Runners’ Health Study with the National Walkers’ Health Study, researchers found that the energy used for moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease over the study’s six year period.”
The bottom line is that, for almost everyone and anyone, walking is a superb choice of exercise and is also a great alternative for those with joint issues in their hips, knees or ankles.
Pursuing Pain-Free Fitness
While it would be great to achieve optimum health and fitness without working out or exercising regularly – at least for many of us! – but the truth is that this takes work and effort. And, in the course of all that physical exertion, people hurt themselves or develop various forms of chronic pain.
As we noted in this article, walking is quite likely the most low-impact form of exercise available to most people. In addition, it is quite possible to engage in fitness walking just about anywhere, anytime. The versatility and “low entry costs” of this exercise makes it a truly easy way to get fit and stay in shape.
But a correct walking gait is significant for avoiding aches and pains after walking. This means a proper posture, walking step motion and a natural stride.
When pain is present, however, especially foot pain, an analysis of your waking gait can be beneficial. By using Anatomy in Motion (AiM) therapy, we can determine your foot’s dysfunction through movements and how your body responds to the pain caused by those movements.
With AiM movement treatments, we can learn how to move you away from that pain naturally. This will allow your body to start working properly and back to reaching its full potential. In addition, AiM treatments can reveal the ways in which your posture is affecting the pain in your feet by the way you are moving.
Understanding how your body moves through your pain and compensates for movement dysfunction is key to your recovery. Pain and Performance Solutions would like to schedule a consultation with you so we can learn more about your pain or injury and explain how we can develop a diagnosis.
As with any diagnosis of an injury or chronic pain, the first step is getting to know you. We can’t determine how to diagnose your chronic pain without understanding your history and what you’ve been through and where you are now. Setting up a consultation is the first step in your journey to recovery, so feel free to contact us at (707) 636-4404 or fill out our online contact form.