Walking for Health
No health professional would denounce the health benefits from walking even if that meant walking to the shops as opposed to taking the car or taking your dog out for a good half-hour’s walk once or twice a day. However, as a form of exercise to improve your fitness levels or as part of a weight loss regime, you can only really look upon walking as a suitable form of exercise if you are raising the intensity and/or speed at which you do it.
Basically, unless you’re allowing yourself to get out of breath whilst you walk, a gentle stroll isn’t going to do much to improve your cardiovascular health or to lose weight and get fitter as your body can only be transformed if it detects a change from its usual routine.
Your Starting PointWhen it comes to exercise, we all have different starting points and it’s important to recognise this and not to run before you can walk. Remember the story about ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’? Exercise should be enjoyable. If it’s not and you start to view it as a punishing regime in which you’re battling to keep up with others, it’ll soon become a chore and you’ll eventually give up. Achieving an increased level of personal fitness isn’t about competition and, whilst it helps to set achievable goals over a period, it’s not about who finishes first or who’s the best. A starting point for some (which is the point at which you notice an increase in your breathing rate) might be a slow walk over 5 minutes if you’re out of condition. For others, they might be able to walk briskly for an hour or more and it might still have no impact upon their breathing but each of us will have a determined starting point at which we feel ourselves beginning to get out of breath. Whatever it takes to get to that stage, this is your starting point.
Increasing IntensityNo matter what age or weight you are or how fit you may be, if you can talk freely without getting out of breath when walking, this means that you’re capable of increasing your intensity, providing you’re not injured and have no other physical limitations. It’s, therefore, important to be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself a bit harder if you decide to choose walking as a means of exercise and to become fitter. Push yourself harder to get out of breath but not so hard that you run the risk of becoming totally exhausted. A regular walking regime that will get you to these levels will soon improve your fitness and is also likely to help you with weight loss if that’s one of your goals, providing that your exercise is coupled with a sensible diet.
After a relatively short time, you’ll then discover that you’re no longer getting out of breath having pushed yourself a little harder. This is a clear indication that you’re getting fitter and it’s at this point that you should look to ‘raise the bar further’ by finding another point at which you start getting out of breath again. Each time you achieve similar goals like this simply means you are improving your fitness levels all the time. A good way of measuring your fitness and that you are doing enough to improve it is to take your pulse both at the peak of exercise then again when you are fully relaxed and at rest post exercise.
Basically, your pulse should beat around 20 times higher when you exercise than when you’re at rest. More than 20 and you’re overdoing things, less than 20 and you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.