One of the safest and most effective forms of exercise is also one of the simplest: walking. It improves cardio fitness, helping the heart and lungs work more efficiently. It increases stamina for doing the things you want to do.
Walking for fitnessis also important for health and weight loss! Plus, it builds stronger bones and muscles – and by strengthening muscles, it helps protect nearby joints and keep them ready for everyday activities. It’s no surprise, then, that a review of published research found that walking also can reduce pain and disability from knee osteoarthritis (OA).
In the review articles, British researchers combed the medical literature for randomized controlled trials – the gold standard in medical research – that looked at either fitness walking, leg strengthening exercise or both in people with OA of the knee. The researchers eventually identified 13 such studies with data suitable for further analysis. After pooling the data, they found that both fitness walking and strength exercise moderately decreased OA pain and disability. While it wasn’t possible to do a direct head-to-head comparison of the two forms of exercise, the degree of improvement shown with each seemed to be about the same.
Walking The Walk
Walking can be done by almost anyone, anyplace, anytime. It requires no special skills or fancy equipment. All it takes is a good pair of shoes – ideally, ones with non-sticky soles, cushioned insoles, and plenty of toe room. If you choose to walk for exercise, experts recommend trying to do so at least three times a week.
A walking program can be easily tailored to your personal fitness level by varying how far and how fast you go. Before you step out, talk to your doctor about the best level of intensity for you. In general, it’s advisable to start out walking a fairly short distance at a comfortable pace. Then gradually build up a walking farther, faster, or for longer periods. Be sure to warm up and cool down by walking slowly for a few minutes before and after each session. Finish with some gentle stretches to help prevent sore muscles.
Research shows that walking can improve the health of your heart, lungs, bones, muscles and joints. But the health benefits don’t stop there. A regular walking program also can boost energy, reduce stress, promote better sleep, help curb your appetite and burn calories to help manage your weight.
Another advantage of walking is that it’s easy to socialize while you exercise, which just adds to the fun and helps maintain your motivation. Look for a walking buddy with a schedule that matches your own and a similar level of physical activity. Or join a walking group, such as the Walk with Ease program offered by the Arthritis Foundation. To improve your overall health and enhance your sense of well-being, a regular walking program is a step in the right direction.
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