E. Newton Jackson, Jr., PhD
University of North Florida
AAPAR President's Corner
Putting One Foot in Front of the Other
The Benefits of Walking
How wonderful it is that putting one foot in front of the other provides so many positive health benefits. During the AAPAR General Session at the AAHPERD National Convention in Indianapolis in March, AAPAR members chose walking as the Physical Activity of the Year. No matter your race, age, gender, height, weight, or ability level, walking can be a beneficial activity. All it takes is a comfortable pair of shoes and a place to walk. You can do it inside or out; fast or slow; with a pet or friend; alone or in a group; long or short distances.
The Mayo Clinic offers the following important benefits of walking:
- Lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Raises HDL (good) cholesterol
- Helps prevent type 2 diabetes
- Lowers blood pressure
- Manages weight
- Improves mood
- Helps you stay strong and fit
Walking has many of the same benefits as running, but the former is a gentle, low-impact activity that can likewise help you achieve a high level of health and fitness. Research on the metabolic equivalent (MET) of various activities has ranked activities by calories burned per kilogram per hour. Thus, whether you call it running or walking quickly, at a speed of 5 miles per hour, you will burn the same amount of calories per hour. In general, the difference between calories burned by walking versus running must take into account your speed and the duration of the activity, although other factors do come into play. In addition, the farther you walk, the more calories you burn, so you benefit most by adding distance to your walk as opposed to time. People who weigh more will burn more calories at every speed. As with any exercise, before walking you should warm up, stretch, and cool down.
The U.S. Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes or more of accumulated moderate-intensity exercise to improve health and fitness. Below are a few simple things you can do to incorporate walking into your daily activities:
- Park farther away from your destination and walk the difference.
- Walk during your lunch hour.
- If you use public transportation, get off 1 stop sooner.
- Take a short walk (~10 minutes) at work—or whenever!—you feel stressed.
When I became AAPAR President, among other things, I asked you to Give Back! Get Involved. With that in mind, I ask you to encourage friends, colleagues, and family to take a walk! This simple activity can go a long way in combating the many health problems plaguing our society from the lack of physical activity. I hope that you will share with AAPAR your walking experiences and photos via our Facebook Fan Page.
For more information on preparation, the basics of walking, and setting realistic goals, visit the Mayo Clinic's Web site. And remember, always consult your doctor for his/her opinion on the type of exercise that would be best for you.