Walking is one of the best forms of exercise that you can engage in to improve muscle tone and heart health. It can lower blood pressure and stress levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease. There are other low level activities that provide the same low aerobic benefit as walking does. You may be surprised to know that washing your car, vacuuming and cleaning your house, and riding a bicycle at less than 10 miles per hour are other activities that can fill in for those days that you don’t feel like pounding the pavement. Along with walking, these other low level activities will keep you from becoming bored and losing interest in maintaining your exercise program.
Let me present some numbers that can help you compare each exercise relative energy usage. First, let’s take a look at the calories burned by walking and jogging/resistance training as compared to sleeping. The body burns about 0.4 calories per pound of weight per hour (cal/lb) when sleeping. Walking takes 1.6 cal/lb. That means that walking burns 4 times more calories per pound per hour than sleeping. The higher aerobic and resistance training activities take about 3.6 cal/lb of energy per hour which is 9 times more energy burned than while sleeping.
In order to burn the same number of calories walking that you would when you go for a jog or lift weights, you would need to walk a little more than twice as long as the time spent jogging or lifting. The exact number is 2-1/4 times longer when you divide 3.6 by 1.6, but this is not an exact science and 2 times longer is easier to remember. So if you spend 1/2 hour jogging, you would need to walk for 1 hour to receive about the same aerobic benefit (equal number of calories burned).
The key to the effectiveness of walking is that it is a low level of activity. Unlike jogging, it is not high impact but it does impact the body enough to keep the bones healthy. Walking does not involve the heavy use of muscles as does jogging and resistance training. However, jogging and resistance training along with walking (or low level of activity) are an important part of a complete exercise program. However, it’s important to note that walking by itself provides greater benefits than either one of the higher level activities.
Walking lowers the stress response of the body. Your stress response is what triggers your fight-flight response. Certain activities induce stress and therefore cause your body to respond by becoming agitated. Walking, on the other hand, relaxes the body and gently increases metabolism and efficiency. Increase the efficiency of the body and you require less food, vitamins and minerals, and water (relative to the amount of walking) to function. What all this means is that walking has huge health benefits without overtaxing the body.
There is one more health benefit that should be of interest to many of you; especially men. Walking increases overall circulation helping the body grow and re-grow hair including lost hair on the top of the head. Moreover, hair loss is an aging issue. Therefore, reverse hair loss and you have reversed part of the aging process – and this is a good thing.
The process of re-growing hair is a bit more complex than just getting out and taking a short stretch around the neighborhood. However, taking a routine walk around the neighborhood (or nearest track) is a good beginning to stimulating the hair follicles and effecting strong hair growth which helps you feel better, and just as important, look better.