The other day, I heard an exercise instructor say that walking isn’t really exercise, and it upset me. There’s no reason to disregard any form of physical activity as not “difficult enough.” Working out doesn’t have to be extreme to be beneficial. Plus, there’s exciting news about walking that’s worthy of attention.
Turns out, putting one foot in front of the other is harder work than previously thought. A new study shows that walking burns more calories than experts have presumed for decades. I’ll remember that when I’m walking the dog. I log an extra 10 miles a week because she needs exercise every day, and it’s tough to resist that face when she’s staring at me, waiting to go!
In addition to burning calories, which may mean easier weight control, walking can make your brain bigger. Brains shrink with age, which is not good news for memory, judgement, and coordination. Research from the UCLA Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh links any type of aerobic exercise, including walking, to a better brain structure and reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
I don’t know if my brain is expanding when I walk the dog every day, but I do know that it gets me out of the house and away from my desk, and that the rhythmic motion of walking reduces my stress and clears my mind. There is evidence that walking in nature changes your brain for the better.
I love to walk, and there’s no doubt that it’s good exercise. If you haven’t been working out lately, walking is a step in the right direction. If you’ve been doing the same loop for a while, here’s how to take your walking up a notch to make it more challenging. For good measure, do at least two sessions of resistance training, such as a weights or bands class, each week in addition to walking, to keep your entire body strong.
Now, where are my sneakers?