During a Temperate Spring, Another Look at Fitness Walking

unexpected benefits of fitness walking include osteoporosis slowdown, reduced stress

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

In mild weather and after a year of lockdown, fitness walking looks appealing. Walking isn’t too strenuous and it helps burn calories and get our muscles working. It also helps with osteoporosis and is low-risk exercise.

Close up of legs of runners and joggers
After cardiologist Dr. James Rippe published a health study in the 1980s of the benefits of walking, fitness walking became a popular form of exercise. Photo By Sanit Fuangnakhon / Shutterstock

Fitness walking is no secret. In January, Wondrium Daily covered the story of Vinod Bajaj, a retiree in Ireland who walked the equivalent of the Earth’s circumference in four years. In that article, we discussed a breakthrough walking study by cardiologist James Rippe that explained the calorie-burning and cardiovascular benefits of fitness walking.

Now, with green grass growing and birds tweeting—not to mention that we’ve recently reached a full year in lockdown—fitness walking looks better than ever. In his video series Physiology and Fitness, International Fitness Expert Dean Hodgkin said walking does far more than just burn calories, and it may be the best option for seniors looking for exercise.

Often Unnoticed Benefits of Walking

“Osteoporosis is a major health problem affecting around 25% of women and 8% of men in the UK and some 15 million people in the U.S.,” Hodgkin said. “Osteoporosis reduces the density of bones and can be life-threatening since many older people die as a result of complications suffered from broken bones.

“Several studies have reported that regular walking at moderate to brisk speeds increases bone density—even just walking for 30 minutes a day.”

Exercise also helps reduce stress, especially if that exercise is regular aerobic conditioning. Fortunately, that’s exactly what walking is. According to Hodgkin, implementing a steady walking regimen into one’s life has been shown to produce noticeable gains in self-image, confidence, feelings of well-being, and reduction of depression.

“In one particular study, A. F. Kramer and his colleagues examined the effects of brisk walking on mildly obese sedentary women and found that walking markedly improved their psychological well-being,” he said. “So it’s easy to understand why Hippocrates is quoted as saying, ‘Walking is man’s best medicine.'”

Walking It Off

One of the best arguments for fitness walking as opposed to other forms of exercise is how low the risk is for related injury. It may sound simple and perhaps even unexciting, but safety makes walking a popular option for seniors.

“Exercise related injuries [with walking] are shown to be much lower than for most other exercise formats,” Hodgkin said. “During running, for instance, the body has to absorb impacts equal to around five times your body weight, but walking causes impact stresses of only around two to three times your own weight. This means that walking is less likely to produce injuries and is consequently being recommended as a rehab activity for injured runners.”

In other words, there really are instances in which “walking it off” is a viable option for injury recovery.

Furthermore, increasing a walking program’s intensity, doesn’t result in an increased risk of injury, unlike most fitness regimens, which get more risky as the person pushes themselves harder. Hodgkin said that one study showed that over the course of 24 weeks, not one of the 59 participants who walked five days a week at speeds between three to five miles per hour suffered a walking-related injury necessitating a consultation with a physician.

“Another 28-week study compared the injury rate of subjects running versus those doing fitness walking four days a week at 80% of their maximum heart rate for 40 minutes,” Hodgkin said. “Preliminary results indicated that runners lost 11.1 days of training due to injury, but fitness walkers only lost an average of one and a half days of training.

“When it comes to exercise for seniors it can be argued that walking is the foremost option.”

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily