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In an era of extreme sports and ultra-doers, walking gets a bad rap. It gets written off as an exercise that is too slow, too boring and too inefficient. We want exercise to make us sweat, burn and tone our backside/thighs/belly/arms in an instant
Walking doesn't do that--and, really, nothing works instantly. But it does do a lot for the body.
The benefits of walking are far undervalued. It's sort of the Swiss Army Knife of exercises in that it seems to possess the ability to fix, cure, prevent or reduce any and every ailment known to human kind. Walking is an exercise that can be done as both a preventative and a rehabilitative exercise. It benefits both the mind and the body of those who lace up their walking shoes and hit the sidewalk, trail or treadmill.
Numerous studies show that walkers have fewer incidences of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Getting that blood pumping by walking for 30 minutes, five times a week helps reduce low-density lipoproteins--the bad cholesterol--and boost good cholesterol. It also lowers the risk of needing gallstone surgery and reduces the risk of hip fracture. Furthermore, walking can help prevent depression, colon cancer, constipation, osteoporosis and impotence.
And walking is a great activity for those recovering from injuries or surgeries. It's a low-impact exercise that helps build muscle strength back up. It stretches the muscles and serves as a great warm up for other exercises.
Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of every day life by going for a walk significantly reduces stress and anxiety levels. Walking can be a social activity--a healthy way to connect with friends and family. Regular walking can also help improve sleep and elevate one's overall mood and sense of well being.
Think you're too busy to walk? Break up your lunch hour by walking for 15 minutes, eating lunch and then walking for another 15. Wake up just 30 minutes earlier on Sunday morning for a pre-brunch walk. Drop a nightly TV show and head outside instead. Remember that during your walks you should be breathing a little harder, but still able to maintain a conversation. If you're breathing at your regular rate, increase your pace. On the other hand, if you're gasping for breath, slow down a little bit. Nobody said you have to be an Olympic walker. (And, yes, racewalking is an Olympic sport!)
Walking is an activity that can last you a long, healthy lifetime. So get outside and put one foot in front of the other--you'll find that walking is anything but pedestrian.
About the Author
Track star Amie Dahnke is an English major at the University of Portland. She also holds the fastest Crystal Springs course time in UP history, and she became the first freshman since 1990 and the first Portland runner since 2000 to win the women's WCC individual championship. Her fastest 5k is 16:51; her fastest mile is 4:51.