I literally broke my way into the joys and benefits of walking as an exercise and I love it! I broke my foot a week before Christmas, wait, let me rephrase that accurately. My foot was broken by a distracted driver who drove over my foot as I stepped off a curb. After several months of not exercising, my foot finally healed enough for me to go back to running, or so I thought. As soon as the walking boot was off, so was I, off and running again.
As you are reading this and if you have on your 20/20 hindsight goggles, you already see what’s coming next before you even read it. Yes, I reinjured my foot and had a setback. This forced me to take a look at walking for exercise as an option for running.
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I learned as a 50+-year-old man with a lot of wear and tear on these tires, walking brings a lot of benefits that I frankly did not know about.
- Great Exercise
Taking a brisk walk is considered moderate-intensity aerobic activity as it is an aerobic exercise, and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) guidelines recommend that adults get 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Walking helps to improve the body’s circulation which helps in the fight against heart disease.
- Weight Management
Walking in tandem with a healthy diet that includes superfoods can help in the battle with obesity and unwanted weight gain. Men and women as we get older, our metabolism slows and it is very important that we control and maintain a healthy weight. Carrying around additional body fat is not healthy and will cause major health issues.
- Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s
The Arthritis Foundation cites a study from the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, “men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who walked less.”
- Stress Relief
This has been the greatest and fastest ROI for me. Whenever I feel stressed, I love going for a walk. Being outside and walking helps to clear my mind. Because walking releases endorphins, it will help take the edge off and put you in a better mood.
- Better Sleep
I noticed when I walk, I feel a certain level of calmness overtaking me. This calm coupled with brisk walking (especially in the evenings) has allowed me to sleep much better and more importantly it has helped me sleep through the night.
Walking vs. Running
What I notice as I get older is that I have aches and pains after running. I am not a believer in the “no pain, no gain” philosophy. I didn’t buy it in little league (yes, I’m talking to you Coach Buzzy) when running 20 laps and I don’t buy it now. Both walking and running are great exercises to get your heart pumping. Both offer many of the same benefits. But here is the main difference,
- Walking is a low impact exercise and easy on the joints. Walking is good for those of us with lower back issues.
- Running/jogging will expedite your goal of losing weight if that is your goal. Running will burn more calories quicker than walking.
How to Walk
Walking may seem like a natural action especially at our age. But there is a proper way to walk for exercise.
- Work with your doctor: Before starting any strenuous exercise routine you should first check-in with your doctor. This is important if you have certain health conditions.
- Set a goal: if you have not exercised in some time, start slow and work your way up. Start with 5 to 10 minutes a day at a slow pace and gradually increase your time and pace. The chief thing is to get started.
- Keep a record: You can’t measure what you don’t track. It is important to know how you are progressing as you exercise. The activity tracker Fitbit is a great device to help with this allowing you to track your steps and your progress. It will also show how many calories you burn, monitor your heart rate, and can play your favorite songs. Checkout the Fitbit Charge 4 Fitness and Activity Tracker with built-in GPS, Heart Rate, Sleep & Swim Tracking.
- Get to steppin: Walking for exercise is different from your everyday casual walk.
- Warm-up by slowly walking and gradually getting into your exercise stride.
- Walk with your head up.
- Swing your arms from front to back with a slight 90-degree bend in your elbows (almost like a runner’s stride). Trust me when I say, you will feel a difference in your cardio when you walk with speed and swing.
- As you take each step, roll your foot from heel to toe and push off into your next step.
- Slightly tighten your stomach muscles as you walk. Notice I said, slightly tighten, but I did not say hold your breath. This may take some practice getting used to.
- Remember, you are walking for exercise and not leisure. To test if your walk is at moderate-intensity, you can take the “Talk Test.” When walking you should be able to talk, but not sing.
- Cooldown at the end of your walk by slowly walking for about 5 to 10 minutes at a slower pace.
Just like with any sport or activity, you must have the proper gear when engaging in walking. Because you will be walking outside you must be prepared for all the elements. Whether it’s the sun, rain, heat, or cold weather, your dress must be appropriate for your climate.
Always strive for comfortable clothing. Your clothing should be loose-fitting and flexible. If you like to walk during the early mornings or late evenings, be sure to wear clothing that is bright and reflective so that you are seen by others. In addition to bright clothing, you could wear something as simple and easy as a high reflective sash.
I can’t stress this next point enough; choosing the correct shoes is the most important piece of gear you will have as a walker. The purchase of walking shoes is an investment and truthfully, they can be a bit pricey. Check out our blog on The Best 10 Running Shoes and Brands for Under $100. But again, your shoes are an investment in your health and will help you maximize the benefits of walking as an exercise.
Many times, we take for granted the importance of a good pair of shoes. A good walking shoe will help with your balance, posture, and comfort your feet. While walking is a low impact activity, your feet are still pounding the pavement with every step you take.
According to the website Spine-Health, there are three essential guidelines for buying a great pair of walking shoes.
- Stability – the shoes should have a balanced and secure feel throughout range of motion.
- Flexibility – the shoes should allow for a good degree of give at the base of the toes, providing smooth motion.
- Comfort – walking shoes should comprise contours and padding conformed closely to the feet, providing a snug fit at the heel and midfoot, with ample room in the forefoot.
The Finish Line
As we get a bit older it is extremely important that we remain physically active with at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Walking is a great way to exercise and it is much easier on the body than running.
There are so many great benefits that come with walking and the best way to begin taking advantage of those benefits is to get up and start walking today. Invite a family member or friend to walk along with you. Walking with a partner can be much more enjoyable, plus you can inspire and motivate one another.
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Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd Edition. (2018). 8. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3mscUX4
Forcum, T., & Hyde, T. (2004). Guidelines for Buying Walking Shoes. Spine-Health. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Hbr12Z