June 2009 Issue

Walk Yourself Well: EN’s Step-By-Step Guide To Good Health

With just one step you can make a giant leap toward improving your health and well-being. It sounds simple, but walking is one of the best ways to help stave off chronic diseases, improve self-confidence and mood plus keep you happy and independent—at any age. Benefits of Walking. Research shows that walking may help reduce the risk of age-related conditions like heart disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, as well as stroke, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Walking can also reduce stress and help control your body weight—even belly fat. Like many other types of weight-bearing exercise, walking builds bone to help prevent osteoporosis. It also tones and tightens your muscles, relieving arthritis symptoms. That’s not all. In the July 26 Circu-lation, government researchers, analyzing results from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, reported that exercising can improve lung capacity by 15% to 25%. That can make your breathing ability like that of someone 10 to 20 years younger. That’s important, because the researchers found that lung capacity declines dramatically with age, contributing to frailty later in life. Although your aerobic capacity will still inevitably decline, exercising makes everything you do easier. How Much Is Enough? Let your goals dictate the duration and intensity of your walking regimen. If your goal is to lose weight, think LSD—short for Long-Slow Distance—but if you want to build overall fitness, focus on walking faster or uphill for a better cardio workout (see "How Fast Should You Walk?," page 6.)

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