By Gary Yanker
Author (Gary Yanker) Bio: He has written health columns for American Health, Women’s Day, Weight Watchers, and the New York Times as well as a dozen books on health and fitness, including the pathbreaking Exercise Walking. A recognized authority on moderate exercise, he lives in Tucson, Arizona and New York City.
Walking is the most efficient exercise for improving overall fitness. It uses more muscles in a continuous, uniform action than most other forms of exercise, and it remains accessible to you throughout life. It is often used as an integral part of medical programs to prevent heart-related diseases and to rehabilitate those already stricken with heart trouble.
If your walking muscles atrophy, your whole body atrophies. So you might as well give walking your fullest attention; it’s the best life-insurance policy you can get. The first step is to find the walking routine that is best suited to you.
Perhaps the slowest form of walking; it’s rated at one mile per hour. This is nothing to scorn at, since strolling of hours and miles can add up to significant work. An after-dinner stroll could stretch to two miles, while a Sunday stroll could stretch to three or four miles. Even walking the dog for 20 minutes a day can add another mile or so a week.
Strolling is valuable as exercise because repetitious movement of the body’s walking-muscle groups aid circulation and burn off calories, albeit at a slow rate. But don’t base your whole exercise program on strolling.
You do this without being conscious of your speed. It’s not for its own sake but walking for a practical purpose. It is characterized by an average speed of three mph. Like strolling, normal walking can be enhanced as an exercise simply by doing more of it. One of the best and most common ways to accomplish this is to walk to work. Counting time spent waiting for buses and trains, many people can get to work faster by walking than by taking mass transportation. At work, take the stairs instead of waiting for the lift or getting onto escalator. Walk to visit your co-workers instead of calling them on the phone. During your coffee or lunch break, take a walk and stretch your legs.
Walks are also recommended before and after meals, even if it’s for only 15 minutes. Walking before a meal can actually depress your appetite and thus be an important factor in controlling your weight.
Walking is also becoming an increasingly popular way to sightsee while traveling.
Walking is just the right speed for exploring, learning, getting impressions, meeting people. It can even stimulate the thinking processes by increasing the oxygen supply to the brain.
This is any style of walking done with a speed, duration or effort to exercise the heart. Heart/lung exercise consists of sustained rapid breathing while moving your arms and legs for a least 15 minutes and ideally as long as 30 minutes, three times a week. Your training goal is to raise your heartbeat to 70-85 per cent of its maximum.
Most forms of walking can be converted to aerobic exercise by maintaining a brisk pace, climbing an incline or mountain, or walking with a backpack.
Depending on your level of conditioning, different walking styles, speeds and durations will help you train aerobically. When you are in poor physical condition, a speed of three mph for 15 to 30 minutes may bring your heart into the training target zone. A walker in excellent condition may require a speed of four to five mph for 3o to 60 minutes to reach his training target.
In the chart of target heart-rate ranges for age groups, given by American Heart Association, each range represents the heartbeats per minute that will produce a training effect if maintained for at least 15 minutes during any exercise period.
Measure your heart rate while walking. If you can’t take your pulse while moving, stop in the middle of your walking period and do it. (Wait until you have been moving around for at least ten minutes.) Measure your pulse rate for ten seconds and then multiply the number of beats by six to obtain the number of heartbeats per minute.
If your heartbeat is below the training zone, you can speed up or extend your walking period until you reach the training zone. As you become more physically fit, the speed and duration must be increased for you to continue making progress. Otherwise, you would merely maintain the level of fitness that you have achieved.
There are now many long-distance routes mapped out and illustrated in guidebooks. But before you prepare to take such a walk you should have a check-up and do a number of test walks to determine your pace, endurance and equipment requirements.
Not everyone can match Edward Payson Weston, known as the father of American walking. He introduced and publicized its health and fitness benefits with crowd-pleasing long-distance walks, beginning in 1861 when he walked from Boston to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. In 1913, at the age of 74, he walked from New York City to Minneapolis in 60 days. Weston Believed that walking could actually make a person “improve with age and never go stale.” He lived to age 90.
Target Ranges by Age
Your Maximum Heart Rate
(beats per minute)
Your Target Range
(beats per minute)
|20||200||140 to 170|
|25||195||137 to 166|
|30||190||133 to 162|
|35||185||130 to 157|
|40||180||126 to 153|
|45||175||123 to 149|
|50||170||119 to 145|
|55||165||116 to 140|
|60||160||112 to 136|
|65||155||109 to 132|
|70||150||105 to 128|