Ever since Jack LaLanne first broadcast his fitness show (while swimming back and forth across San Francisco Bay) and Jane Fonda videos urged us to “feel the burn,” fitness crazes have swept across North America like a Zamboni over an ice rink, promising to shine up your surface by grinding you down. The names of today’s popular routines say it all: Insanity; Hip Hop Abs Extreme; TurboFire.
We, on the other hand, advocate a much easier-to-stick-to approach to physical activity: walking (and if you are ready after a month of daily walking and cardio, moderate weight lifting). Walking can be easygoing or intense; it’s something everyone knows how to do, and all you need is a good pair of walking shoes.
How does our often-recommended 10,000 steps a day stack up to those extreme workouts in terms of improved health, a longer life and a younger you? We think it comes out light years ahead, and here’s why:
The psychological benefits of a daily walking routine: Drop-out rates in intense programs are extremely high, and that builds discouragement. Establishing and sticking to a daily walking routine fuels self-esteem.
The aches-and-pains-conquering benefits: Stretching out your stride, keeping your posture erect (shoulders back and down) and your upper-body motion fluid (let those arms swing!) loosens up stiff joints, muscles and tendons. Those intense workouts can lead to injury, joint and muscle pain.
The muscle-building benefits: Walking builds, tones and shapes muscles in your legs and butt. It also tightens the torso, or core, and strengthens the arms.
The weight-loss benefits: Walking is a longer-duration, lower-intensity exercise that can burn more fat than a short, intense workout.
The cardiovascular benefits: You’ll reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. And for you folks who already have high blood pressure or heart disease, it’s a safe way to improve your cardio system.
The diabetes-fighting benefits: Walking can stabilize blood sugar levels and make you less insulin resistant, without risking a blood sugar plunge that can accompany intense exercise.
And that still leaves the brain-enhancing, head-turning, sexual-health-improving, self-confidence-boosting and money-saving benefits! Walk on!
© 2012 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.