Beginners Exercise Program: Walking isn’t Exercise!
I can't tell you how many people looking for a beginners exercise program tell me they walk for exercise. My first question to these folks is, "What is your fitness or exercise goal?" The answer is usually, "To get in shape." or "To lose weight." My second question is always, "Then what does your heart rate get to when you walk?" and without fail they all say, "I don't know." Really?
If you want to lose weight, get in shape, or improve your cardiovascular health, how can you do that if you don't know how hard your body is working? Look, whether you're a veteran in fitness or just starting a beginners exercise program, walking isn't really exercise unless it's done at a pace that gets your heart pumping into your target heart rate range! Yeah, it's good to walk, but if you're serious about your fitness goal, and walking is going to be one of your exercise choices, you need to understand the truth.
Walking is better than pulling an "Al Bundy," sitting on your couch in front of the television with your hand tucked under your belt, but it isn't enough to get you to where you want to go. Walking does, of course, have many positive benefits:
- Maintains Joint lubrication and joint health
- Activates your muscles to improve blood flow
- Promotes healthy breathing and oxygenation of your body
- Is low impact
- Can help with stress and mental health
Other than the above mentioned benefits though, unless you have medical issues or are severely out of shape, walking is usually not enough. What about stretching? resistance training? Walking is only one part of a 'balanced diet' of exercise and shouldn't be the only 'food group' in your balanced beginners exercise program. Now, unless you're walking at a brisk pace, and to the appropriate targeted heart rate range, here is what walking doesn't do:
- Doesn't promote upper body strength or bone health
- Doesn't improve cardiovascular health unless you reach your target heart rate
- Doesn't burn a lot of calories
- Doesn't promote flexibility
- Doesn't, by itself, satisfy the exercise recommendations from the American Heart Association . Don't believe me? Read below!
So, what exactly are the guidelines and recommendations of the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)?
The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardio, or 75 minutes a week of high-intensity cardio. The exercise sessions can be broken up into segments, as long as they are 10 minutes or longer. An easy breakdown could be 30 minutes a day, five days a week. In addition to aerobic exercise, do at least two 20-minute sessions of strength training a week.
Walking isn't enough! Not only does it fall short of the national guidelines for exercise, but most people aren't getting their heart rates high enough to be considered exercise. If you are going to walk for exercise, consider getting a heart rate monitor like this:
With something like this, you can now monitor your heart rate during your walking program to ensure not only the safety of your workout, but to make sure you are reaching appropriate levels to burn fat and improve your heart health! For more information on cardiovascular training and to figure out your target heart rate, see the Cardiovascular Training section of my DVD.
In Exercise, what you don't know can hurt you!
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