Article by Dr. Darrell Menard
Walking is often taken for granted. For most people, it’s simply a means of transportation. However, it is also an excellent fitness activity. Regrettably, many of us do far less walking then needed to stay healthy. On a typical work day, we drive to and from work, stare at a computer all day long, and spend the evening with the TV or Internet. This inactive lifestyle has a substantial price tag including: weight gain, loss of strength, decreased cardiovascular fitness, loss of flexibility, shortened life span, and a 50% increase in the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, and cancer.
A common concern for military personnel is whether walking can assist them in staying fit enough to pass their annual fitness test. Absolutely! The US Army conducted a study during basic training where two groups of recruits did identical training except that one group rucksack marched more while the other ran more. The study showed that although both groups participated in a two mile run, the marching group outperformed the running group and had fewer injuries.
Walking works your heart/lungs and your body isn’t subjected to the high impact force of running. If your ultimate goal is to run regularly, daily walks for a few months will help re-condition your body before gradually introducing running into your schedule. Walking workouts are an enjoyable and effective way to get fit. Running may not even be necessary to meet your goals.
Walking is the world’s most flexible fitness activity. It can be done by nearly anyone and virtually anywhere. It doesn’t require a special facility, expensive equipment, or coaching. Walking workouts can be made harder by using poles, carrying hand weights, going up hill, walking faster and farther, or wearing a weighted backpack.
A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate speed walking/day can protect you from many chronic diseases.
A minimum of 45 minutes of moderate speed walking/day with a backpack will assist you in staying operationally fit.