Beginners Guide to Starting a Walking Routine Part 1

Beginners Guide to Starting a Walking Routine

There are so many reasons walking is good for you, it’s virtually impossible to talk about all of them in one short blog  So, think of this as a mini primer. Before we get into the “why” of things, here are some fun and interesting facts about walking:

* Every step you take uses up to 200 muscles.

* The average person walks the equivalent distance of five equators in his or her lifetime.

* Believe it or not, it’s better to swing your arms when you walk. Why? When you don’t, it increases the effort of walking up to 12 percent.

* Under certain circumstances, when you walk, the pressure you put on your feet exceeds your total body weight. If you run, this pressure can be up to three or four times your weight.

* Want to burn more calories? Try walking sideways. It actually gets rid of 78 percent more of the little culprits.

* Walking uphill increases cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone.

* It takes approximately one hour 43 minutes to walk off 540 calories, which happens to be the caloric count of a Big Mac. If your meal included a super-size Coke and French fries, you need to walk seven hours to burn the calories.

* If you’re trying to improve your health, experts suggest walking 6,000 steps per day. If you’re trying to lose weight, walk a total of 10,000 steps to get the job done.

* Some people get exercise via walking, even when they don’t want to. Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, affects approximately 18 percent of the world’s population.

* The term “walk” comes from the old English word “wealcan,” which means “to roll.”

* It’s extremely important to be constantly aware of your surroundings when you walk. Statistics indicate a person is 36 more times likely to be killed walking than driving a car and 300 times more likely to be killed walking than traveling via airplane.

Now it’s time to cover some of the many reasons walking is good for you and an excellent way to keep fit. One of the greatest things about walking is the fact that you benefit from it, no matter how much or how little you walk. Of course, the more you walk the better. But, every little bit helps.

The Benefits of Walking

Heart Health

Studies show that walking regularly lowers your risk of both heart disease and stroke. Walking gets your heart rate up and causes your body to burn calories. This, in turn, lowers your cholesterol level.

According to The Stroke Association, walking for half an hour every day helps to keep your blood pressure in check and reduces your risk of stroke by up to 27 percent. Walking gives your circulation a boost and helps to increase the levels of oxygen in your blood. This actually leads to feeling more energetic after a short (brisk) walk.

Walking isn't going to build muscle as effectively as other more strenuous exercises. However, a walking routine does help you burn fat and build some muscle, especially in the legs. Walking gives your calves and your thighs quite a workout. It also helps your glutes.

Compared to more high-impact exercises such as running, walking is also very gentle on people with arthritis. It's relatively easy to choose a route, head outside and give your muscles the workout they need.

Weight Loss and Other Benefits

According to Mayo Clinic, walking isn’t the best way to lose weight. But it certainly helps. To lose one pound per week, consider eliminating roughly 500 calories from your diet each day.

Walking is actually of more importance after you lose weight. Studies indicate the people who are most successful keeping weight off are those who participate in frequent physical activities. One of the most important things to remember is balance. Overdoing any form of exercise is dangerous. Start slow and gradually build up to a longer regimen.

After 30 minutes of walking at about 2 mph, you’ll have burned around 75 calories. If you manage to get your speed up to around 3 mph, the number goes up to approximately 100 calories. While a single hour of walking may not burn an impressive amount of calories (around as much as, say, a glass of chocolate milk would give you), these numbers add up when you work walking into your routine.

According to some studies, walking regularly benefits your immune system. Exercise such as walking causes our body to produce increased levels of several types of critical immune cells. Exposure to the sun also boosts our levels of vitamin D, which improves the performance of our immune systems as well as bone health.

Brain Booster

While you may not think it's true, walking is also good for your brain. Walking has been shown to have multiple cognitive benefits, including improved cognitive control, improved academic performance and a boost of creativity in young people. This boost in creativity is especially prominent when young people walk outdoors, as exposure to a natural setting is thought to stimulate creativity.

Seniors who walk regularly are also shown to have improved memory function. The farther an elderly person can walk in a six-minute span of time, the better they tend to perform on memory and logic tests. Studies also show that elderly people who walk over six miles a week are less likely to experience brain shrinkage and dementia as the years go by.

Not only is walking good for your brain, it's also good for your mood. Studies show that even moderate exercise such as a brisk walk causes our body to release endorphins - the neurotransmitter found in our brains that causes us to feel happiness and euphoria.

Walking regularly can stave off the negative effects of anxiety or stress. Establishing and sticking to a walking routine also gives you a sense of setting and completing goals, which can raise your self-esteem and leave you feeling more confident in yourself. What better reason to walk in a relaxing or a natural environment?

Another reason walking is great for your mood is it gives you time to think. Walking doesn't take that much effort, so while we do it, we can ponder other areas in our lives. This gives you a chance to work through your problems in a relatively quiet and safe environment.

After starting a walking routine, you may find that you have your best ideas while walking around your neighborhood or down a trail through the forest. For some, walking is even similar to medication. The simple repetitive activity allows you to get out your anxiety while allowing your mind to tune out.

Walking While Pregnant

More and more moms-to-be are realizing and taking advantage of the benefits of walking while pregnant. If you’re expecting and have yet to take up walking, now is the perfect time to do so. Here are a few reasons why:

* Walking lowers the risk of pre-eclampsia. Since it helps to reduce your cholesterol, in a somewhat roundabout way, and helps maintain your weight, your chances of dealing with high blood pressure are much lower.

* It lowers the risk of gestational diabetes. Again, because walking helps you maintain your weight when pregnant, you have much less chance of getting this temporary form of diabetes.

* Your chances of having a healthy baby are higher. When you stay at the optimum pregnancy weight, it typically means your baby is also maintaining a healthy weight. If you’re worried about delivering a heavy baby, you might consider walking to reduce the chances of weight being a delivery-related issue.

* Because walking strengthens your muscles and increases your flexibility, women who walk during pregnancy typically have an easier time with childbirth. This can mean less pain in a much faster delivery time.

Almost everyone knows that pregnancy causes at least some level of stress. For some women, this level is much higher than others. In addition, hormones cause moods to go from extreme happiness one minute to downright depression the next.

As mentioned above, when you walk your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are magical in a sense, because they make you feel good. So, even if your schedule only allows infrequent walks when pregnant, take advantage of each and every one of them.

Taking the steps instead of the elevator, grocery shopping, trying to walk just a little more at work or getting off the bus one stop early are all ways to add extra walking to your daily routine.

There are a couple of special safety precautions to keep in mind as a pregnant walker. Don’t let your body get too overheated. Doing so can sometimes lead to premature labor. If it’s warm outside, consider walking in the mall. In addition, because of your large belly, your center of gravity has shifted. Because of this, you always want to walk with extra caution.

When you’re pregnant, you probably don’t want to go into “power walker mode,” unless walking was part of your daily routine before you got pregnant. Never walk too fast. It’s best to walk at a comfortable pace. Try to remember to take a few sips of water every five minutes or so. You don’t want to get dehydrated. It’s bad for you and the baby!

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