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Health Check: In terms of exercise, is walking enough?

Health benefits of walking stem from changes that occur in body systems as a result of exercising

Megan Teychenne | The Conversation 

Can running make you smarter?

We all know we need to exercise to stay fit and strong, stave off disease and maintain a healthy weight. is the most popular physical activity undertaken by Australian adults. It’s free, easy, and can be done almost anywhere.

leads to a remarkable reduction in the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, arthritis, depression, anxiety and insomnia, and premature death from all causes.

The benefits of stem from the changes that occur in our as a result of For some of these conditions, fitness has been shown to be a particularly important factor for prevention.

The term fitness is quite often used to describe aerobic fitness, but having a high level of fitness actually refers to all components of health-related physical fitness which includes muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, body composition, and of course aerobic (or heart) fitness. So is enough in terms of the exercise we need?

Aerobic fitness

An analysis of studies on showed it improves aerobic fitness - which is technically the ability of the heart to get oxygen to our muscles and how effectively our muscles use that oxygen. But to be effective, needs to be of at least moderate intensity, which means an intensity where you’re able to notice your breathing but can carry on a conversation without noticeable pauses between words. For many, this is a brisk walk.

Greater improvements in aerobic fitness can be achieved when at a vigorous intensity, where you can converse with a friend, but it will be interrupted with noticeable pauses between words to take a breath.

The good news is that you don’t need to walk at a vigorous intensity for or aerobic fitness benefits. at a moderate intensity will increase your aerobic fitness and, more importantly, your endurance (the ability to carry out activities for longer with less fatigue). This is because it allows your body to burn fat more efficiently, improves delivery and use of oxygen in the muscles, and improves mitochondria density and efficiency (these are producers of energy in our body), all leading to greater capacity to undertake tasks with less fatigue.

briskly for 30 minutes five days per week can improve aerobic fitness. Each bout doesn’t need to be long though; for ten minutes three times per day is as beneficial as for 30 minutes in one go.

Strength

is not a strength-based exercise, but if you haven’t exercised in a while, you’ll notice gains in leg strength as a result of regular Although benefits in strength are modest, research shows 30 minutes five days per week at a moderate intensity helps to prevent sarcopenia (age-related loss in muscle size and strength).

You can increase the demand on your lower body muscles, bones and tendons to keep them strong by introducing hills, choosing to take the stairs, on undulating terrain, or even carrying a comfortable backpack. But maximum strength gains will come from introducing some form of body-weight or gym-based resistance training exercise.

Flexibility

does not lead to significant gains in joint flexibility, but regularly does have positive effects on your joints. Weight-bearing exercise, including walking, increases lubrication and delivery of nutrition to your joints.

Research shows that regularly reduces pain and disability for adults suffering from knee arthritis; and moderate intensity exercise can protect against the development of joint degeneration.

Body weight

Moderate intensity can prevent weight gain and assist in maintaining a healthy weight in as little as 150 minutes per week. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 250 minutes or more exercise to lose a modest amount of weight, but the more you do, the more you’ll lose.

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Unfortunately, it’s a myth that calories in equals calories out. Don’t expect a 500 calorie walk to offset the negative metabolic effect of a 500 calorie treat. Remember the human body operates on physiology and is not bound by the rules of physics. Fortunately, regular exercise and being physically fit will reduce your risk of heart disease and early death irrespective of your weight loss success.

There are plenty of reasons to walk, we’ve been doing it since the dawn of time, well before the first gym opened. is an organic, natural, gluten free, fat free, toxin free, meditative experience that delivers far more benefits than most other decisions you’ll make today.


Megan Teychenne, Senior Lecturer, Physical Activity and Health, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University and Clint Miller, Lecturer, Clinical Exercise Physiology, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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First Published: Wed, August 09 2017. 11:36 IST
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