Walking is easily the most popular form of exercise. Other activities generate more conversation and media coverage, but none of them approaches walking in number of participants. Approximately half of the 165 American adults (18 years of age and older) claim they exercise regularly, and the number who walk for exercise is increasing every day. Walking is the only exercise in which the rate of participation does not decline in the middle and later years. In a national survey, the highest percentage of regular walkers (39.4%) for any group was found among men 65 years of age and older. Unlike tennis, running, skiing, and other activities that have gained great popularity fairly recently, walking has been widely practiced as a recreational and fitness activity throughout recorded history. Classical and early English literature seems to have been written largely by men who were prodigious walkers, and Emerson and Thoreau helped carry on the tradition in America. Among American presidents, the most famous walkers included Jefferson, Lincoln, and Truman. Walking today is riding a wave of popularity that draws its strength from a rediscovery of walking's utility, pleasures, and health-giving qualities. This booklet is for those who want to join that movement.
| Walking: The Slower, Surer Way to Fitness
People walk for many reasons: for pleasure...to rid themselves of tensions...to find solitude...or to get from one place to another. Nearly everyone who walks regularly does so at least in part because of a conviction that it is good exercise. Often dismissed in the past as being "too easy" to be taken seriously, walking recently has gained new respect as a means of improving physical fitness. Studies show that, when done briskly on a regular schedule, it can improve the body's ability to consume oxygen during exertion, lower the resting heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and increase the efficiency of the heart and lungs. It also helps burn excess calories. Since obesity and high blood pressure are among the leading risk factors for heart attack and stroke, walking offers protection against two of our major killers. Walking burns approximately the same amount of calories per mile as does running, a fact particularly ppealing to those who find it difficult to sustain the jarring effects of long distance jogging. Brisk walking one mile in 15 minutes burns just about the same number of calories as jogging an equal distance in 8 1/2 minutes. In weight-bearing activities like walking, heavier individuals will burn more calories than lighter persons. For example, studies show that a 110-pound person burns about half as many calories as a 216 pound person walking at the same pace for the same distance. Although increasing walking speed does not burn significantly more calories per mile, a more vigorous walking pace will produce more dramatic conditioning effects. When looking at the benefits to heart/lung endurance, how far one improves depends on his/her initial fitness level. Someone starting out in poor shape will benefit from a slow speed of walking whereby someone in better condition would need to walk faster and/or farther to improve. Recent studies show that there are also residual benefits to vigorous exercise. For a period of time after a dynamic workout, one's metabolism remains elevated above normal which results in additional calories burned. In some weight-loss and conditioning studies, walking actually has proven to be more effective than running and other more highly-touted activities. That's because it's virtually injury-free and has the lowest dropout rate of any form of exercise. Like other forms of exercise, walking appears to have a substantial psychological payoff. Beginning walkers almost invariably report that they feel better and sleep better, and that their mental outlook improves. Walking also can exert a favorable influence on personal habits. For example, smokers who begin walking often cut...
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