Three universal goals nearly all of us share are: (1) to live longer, (2) to live free of illness and (3) to control our weight. Amazingly, walking lets us achieve all three. In fact, walking may be your best medicine for slowing the aging process, reducing your chances of illness and slashing your body fat. For anyone out of shape or not athletically-inclined, walking is the no-stress, no-sweat answer to lifelong conditioning. All you need is a good pair of shoes, a little time, some common sense, a few guidelines from a fitness professional and you're ready to go.
Unfortunately, there's more misinformation floating around today about fitness walking and weight loss than ever before. Some experts even say walking is not effective for weight loss at all and they insist that only higher intensity forms of cardio will do anything to improve your body composition. Others fitness experts believe that you should not do cardiovascular exercise every day - even walking.
There may be a little truth in each of those statements, however, walking always was and still is one of the best exercises for strengthening your bones, controlling your weight, toning the muscles in your lower body, maintaining good posture and improving your self image.
Walking uses almost every muscle in the body, it improves circulation of blood to the joints and massages the blood vessels, keeping them more elastic. Walking also helps you maintain muscle and an efficient metabolism as you get older (not to mention keeping you young "in spirit.")
Walking is incredibly convenient too. Since you don't need a gym or any special equipment, you can walk any place, at any time and that allows you to lose weight and get fit with little or no interruption to your busy schedule.
People who diet without exercising often get fatter with time. Although your weight may initially drop while dieting, weight loss from low calorie and especially low carb diets consists mostly of water and muscle. When the weight returns, it comes back as fat. To avoid getting fatter over time, you must increase your metabolism by exercising daily.
To get the maximum benefits of a walking program, you need make it more challenging than a leisurely "walk in the park." Walking at a steady and brisk pace burns more fat simply because it burns more calories. Just remember to begin slowly to avoid muscle soreness, and increase your pace over time as you become more fit.
To lose weight, it's ideal to alternate your walking sessions between high intensity and lower intensity days. For example, on one day walk for 30- 45 minutes as a steady and moderate pace. On the next day, walk at a faster pace. You could even do "road work" like the boxers do, where you break up your walk along the route with some sets of squats, lunges, bench push ups or other body weight or callisthenic exercises to make it a real cardiovascular and muscle blaster of a workout! It doesn't have to be boring or the same thing every day. Make it fun and keep it up consistently, leading an active life-style 365 days a year.
Slow and casual walking has benefits, but you will not get as much out of walking at a very slow pace because we all have a built-in mechanical advantage for walking long distances at normal speeds.
Our bodies, via the spinal column, muscle attachments and bony structures, reserve energy in the musculoskeletal system and release it back to us without asking for additional energy output. In other words, as you walk, your spinal column keeps energy in reserve because of the way you straighten and extend your spine during normal walking.
As you step, your spine is stretched, and as you take another step, the energy reserved in the spine is used in propulsion. The spine acts very much like rubber band as your walk, harnessing this reserve energy.
To get substantial cardiovascular, muscular and weight loss benefits, this is why you must walk briskly or create extra movement patterns beyond casual, slow walking in order to optimize your walking program for weight loss and cardiovascular fitness.
Walking the right way will also improve your posture and tends to help keep you upright (because you must see where you are going). Just hold your chin up and shoulder slightly back.. Walk with your heels hitting the ground first and your feet pointed forward. Swing your arms fully and make lengthy strides.
To lose weight and achieve optimum health, exercise and diet are both necessary and interrelated. Exercising without maintaining a balanced diet is no more beneficial than dieting while remaining a couch potato.
Carbohydrates are high-octane fuel. They provide energy for movement and help raise internal body metabolism. They're also satisfying. The key is to avoid adding high-fat and high calorie toppings to your carbohydrates. Also be sure to focus on fruits and vegetables and do not eat the majority of your carbohydrates from the starch category such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. These type of carbs can create an insulin spike, which in turn feeds your fat storing system.
Fruits and vegetables are the ideal health, diet and fat loss foods for many reasons. They're relatively low in fat and calories, high in fiber and rich in essential vitamins and minerals. The National Research Council recommends eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Your everyday habits will determine your long term body weight and body composition. Make sure you get enough sleep, drink enough water to expel toxins, avoid processed food as much as you can, eat your fruits and veggies, eat organic when ever possible and work hard.
Just one last thought: taking a three-minute walk after each meal is worth a four pound reduction in body fat in a year's time. Climbing two flights of stairs a day burns off half a pound of body fat in a year. On the other hand, one candy bar eaten daily will cost you 20 pounds annually.
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