The Long Walk to Getting Healthy
With all the different ways to exercise out there, you might forget about just how beneficial walking can be when it comes to your health. But the best thing for most of us would be to turn back the clock, get out of our cars and do some good old-fashioned walking. This isn't as impossible to do as it sounds. Despite the fact that we often cover long distances by car to get to work, appointments and other commitments, it's still possible to fit some walking in every day.
The trick is to park the car before your destination and allow yourself to walk for at least 15 minutes. Others manage to get some walking in each day by heading out at lunchtime for half an hour. Still others go for a long walk at the end of the day. Unlike other forms of exercise that can leave your heart racing and your body too pumped up to go to sleep, walking can gently stretch out your muscles, help you digest dinner, and soothe away stress and worries.
Still not convinced that walking is worth putting aside the time for? Here's a minute-by-minute account of what walking can do for you in terms of your health.
-- In the first five minutes, your heart rate increases and the release of energy-producing chemicals is triggered. Blood starts to flow more vigorously through your body and muscles start to warm up. Any stiffness starts to disappear as your joints release lubricating fluid.
-- At 10 minutes, your blood vessels expand as more chemicals are released and your heartbeat speeds up a little more, too. Increased blood and oxygen reach your muscles to help them work better. Stiffness in joints and tendons continues to decrease.
-- At 20 minutes, hormones like glucagon and epinephrine are released by your body as fuel for your muscles. Your body temperature continues to rise as more blood flows through organs and tissues.
-- At 45 minutes, stress and tension have dissipated from your body. Endorphins -- the "feel good" chemicals -- are released in the brain.
All of these effects combine together to boost the health of your heart, your joints, your brain, your circulatory system, and your digestive system.
So what's the best exercise? Walking should be near the very top of your list -- all it requires is a little time and patience for it to do its magic.