Many exercise/fitness gurus have conditioned us to accept that we need thirty or more sweat-producing minutes of exercise five days a week to achieve good looks, glistening hair, charming personality, and high-level success. Well, maybe those aren’t the exact claims, but the general consensus has been that to be effective for either weight-loss or shaping-up, exercise regiments should be of concentrated exertion.
Recent findings indicate that breaking down long, intense periods into shorter periods of varying intensity can be more beneficial. Translated into walking, you don’t need to put in forty-five minutes of high intensity walking five days a week to reap health-enhancing benefits. Sessions of about thirty minutes, which include periods of easy walking and fast walking, give you a variety of benefits!
Walking is multi-beneficial when you start out at a comfortable pace for about ten minutes, put on the steam for the next ten minutes, then cruise home at a comfortable level for the last ten minutes. When you walk at a comfortable pace for about ten minutes, your body uses anaerobic (without oxygen) and aerobic (with oxygen) processes. The body uses energy from anaerobic activity for power moves and to get us off to a fast start. This instant energy comes from carbohydrates stored in cells and leaves lactic acid as a by-product. Sustained activity calls on aerobic processes that use oxygen to convert carbohydrates and, ultimately, fats as “fuel” to produce energy. When you speed up your walk, your heart rate and breathing intensify as energy production switches to aerobic processes. This gets your blood scurrying through your veins to soak up as much oxygen as possible and to get rid of physiological acid. You can go a lot faster and farther on aerobically produced energy than you can on anaerobic energy. Aerobic fast walking exercises both your cardiovascular system and your muscles. It helps build endurance. When you slow down again, your body has a chance to “work out” the lactic acid that muscles have been producing, and you lessen the chance of next-day soreness. Begin and end your outing with ten minutes of warm-up and cool-down walking.
While fast walking helps strengthen your blood and oxygen delivery systems, easy contralateral walking helps retime internal communications. In contralateral walking, all sections of the body are coordinated to work in balanced unity – left and right, top and bottom. Opposing muscles contract and relax in synchronized rhythm. Neither the sympathetic nor the parasympathetic nervous system is over stressed. Internal “message circuits” are freed of “clutter.” All of this means that sessions that include both fast and slow walking improve muscle tone and elasticity and internal timing. That’s a win!