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Defeat Diabetes
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Walking Is Hard To Beat As Low-Impact Exercise

Posted: Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Something as simple as going for a walk can dramatically improve your health.

After decades of being told that exercise requires a serious commitment of time and sweat, it may be hard to believe that something as simple as going for a walk could improve your health and help you lose weight. But research shows that walking works.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that people who live in the suburbs -- and therefore drive everywhere -- weigh six pounds more than urbanites in dense cities who walk more. Manhattan has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country, and some experts attribute this to the fact that so many of its residents walk regularly.

''Walking is a flexible and available exercise that's easy to incorporate into your everyday life,'' said Ross E. Andersen, professor of geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“Other benefits include preferentially losing more fat and hanging onto more muscle.'' Additionally, walking helps you become more mindful of what you're eating so you can manage your weight better. ''When you consciously increase your physical activity, you become more aware of your surroundings, and you're less likely to grab that candy bar at the checkout counter,'' Andersen said.

He also said that walking can be the gateway to more vigorous exercise, which leads to greater overall results. ``Self-confidence increases after you start a walking program, and as your self-confidence increases, you start including more fitness in your life.''

You only burn about 20 percent more calories when you run a mile than you do when you walk a mile. So walking means less sweat and less muscle stress with about the same calorie expenditure.

Walking also has fewer risks of injury than fast-paced jogging; walkers get a better overall workout than most runners; and age is not an impediment. A moderately paced walk burns almost 5 calories per minute, and while that may not seem like much, it adds up.

In a key study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Andersen showed that a program of diet plus lifestyle activity, such as simple walking, can be a suitable alternative and offer health benefits similar to diet plus vigorous activity for overweight people.

John M. Jakicic, professor at the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh, agrees: ''It appears that intensity of the activity is not the main factor impacting long-term weight loss or weight control.'' But in order to lose weight, ''you need to walk an additional 250 to 300 minutes per week, over a period of four to five days,'' he said.

Not convinced yet? A recent Duke University study showed that you can walk for 30 minutes a day, not diet, and maintain weight loss. And according to the National Weight Control Registry, which keeps an ongoing record of people who have maintained weight loss for five years or more, a staggering 77 percent of successful losers use walking as their primary physical activity.

According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, the biggest obstacles to walking are the lack of trails or sidewalks, not seeing other people exercising, unattended dogs and heavy traffic.

''Learn how to work around these obstacles by setting goals and researching your area,'' said Ross C. Brownson, professor of epidemiology at St. Louis University School of Public Health in Missouri and a co-author of the study. Find suitable walking and hiking trails in your area, come up with a schedule and determine what you're going to do on a regular basis.




Source: Diabetes In

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