Don't ever let anyone tell you that walking as a means of maintaining fitness is just for old people, because it's not! It is actually one of the best exercises you can do when it's done the right way.
Walking is excellent for maintaining a healthy circulatory system, while it boosts your stamina and strengthens your cardiovascular system. It also has another less realized property for boosting health in that it gets you up off the sofa, away from the life sapping TV and outdoors into the daylight and fresh air!
So what is the right way to walk in order to get all these quite amazing benefits from something that most people take for granted?
First of all, you need to be able to walk at an elevated pace. It's no use just casually strolling along and expecting to get any benefits from it. You have to pick up the pace and maintain that quickened pace for a reasonable length of time without stopping. A decent amount of time is anything more than about 30 minutes. So you can see that it is not going to be a mere stroll in the park.
There area lot of good reasons for maintaining a quicker pace for that length of time and it has to do with the way the body uses up glucose for energy. When you force your muscles to work harder than usual, such as walking quickly for a lengthened period of time, those muscles demand more fuel.
They get it in the form of glucose, which is supplied to then via the bloodstream. The blood carries this dissolved glucose around the body to provide energy for all the muscles and it maintains a certain level to ensure all the muscles that need it can get it.
But when you work harder, the muscles doing the extra work demand more fuel and begin to deplete the blood sugar (glucose) levels. This can go on for a while because the body is quite resilient, but it gets to a stage, after about 20 minutes or so, when the blood sugar levels become so depleted that the body must replenish the supply.
It does that by taking some of its stored fat and processes it in the liver back into glucose, which is fed back into the blood stream to make up the shortfall.
This happens every time you make your body work like this for that amount of time and strangely, it doesn't seem to make a lot of difference how strenuous your workout is, the blood sugar levels still don't get replenished in this way until after 20 minutes. That is why it is far better to take lighter exercise that you can maintain for longer, than to take heavy, strenuous exercise that you can only keep up for a few minutes.
Walking at an elevated pace fits this model perfectly, as do other exercises such as swimming and playing less strenuous sports such as badminton, table tennis, or volleyball. The exercise should get you out of breath and make you sweat freely while raising your heart rate to the point where you are actually doing a cardiovascular or aerobic exercise. Dancing also falls into this category.
But the beauty of walking is that it is something that most people can do without any instruction, apparatus or gymnasium and it is something that can be enjoyed on a nice sunny day. Getting that fresh air into your lungs is an added boost to fitness and it also improves your mood because more exposure to natural daylight increases secretion of serotonin by the body, which is your very own grown feel-good hormone.
Also, this exposure to sunlight boosts the body's production of vitamin D, which is essential for health bones and has recently been found to assist in weight loss.
So if you want to improve your fitness, lose some weight or generally get more healthy, then switch off the TV, get up off the sofa and get out of the house into the daylight and fresh air and get walking. You'll be surprised at what you can accomplish!