Walking For Exercise- Can it keep you fit?

I often get asked the questions,”What type of cardiovascular exercise is best for me?”, “Does walking count?” The answer is of course, very individual, and it depends on your goals, baseline fitness and exercise experience. Many people who first begin an exercise program can, and should, use walking as a way to burn calories and get your heart back to good health. But,once you have progressed past the true beginner stage of cardio health, walking may not do it for you anymore! Why? Well, most people do not walk vigorously enough to make walking a useful calorie burning tool. A walk that will both burn sufficient calories for weight loss, as well as stimulate the health of the heart, must be quite fast- you should be walking AS FAST as you can in your natural stride. Swing your arms naturally, keep up the pace continuously and try some hills!! A pedometer can be of great help to keep you on track as well. I DO NOT recommend that you hold hand weights, as these can injure shoulders, and do not result in a significant enough calorie expenditure. And, NEVER use ankle weights when walking! Walking at 3 miles an hour (20 min/mile) burns 156 calories per hour (depending on bodyweight), while walking 4 miles an hour burns 260 calories- quite a difference. If walking no longer does it for you-if you heart rate does not increase slightly from the exertion- then you need to try other forms of cardio exercise like biking, cardio equipment or even jogging!! These new activities will bump you off your weight plateau, and offer more options in case of boredom. Jogging 4 miles an hour- a slow pace- burns 416 calories per hour. Jogging 5 miles an hour for one hour- 520 calories. SO- you can jog for 1/2 hour and burn more calories than walking for one hour! That’s more like it! Of course, in the “long run”, the best exercise is the one that you can live with- so for many of us, walking still plays a role in our exercise experience because it is pleasant, non-injuring and requires no equipment. Just pick up the pace!