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Walking for transportation is a good way to start any exercise program, and it's an excellent way to protect your health.

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Still, many men will get extra benefit from setting aside dedicated time to walk for exercise, health, and pleasure. The meta-analysis of 18 walking studies did not address a question that has bedeviled most studies of exercise and health: is the exercise itself protective, or do genetically healthier people simply tend to exercise more?

Advice for a Walking Workout

But another important European study sheds light on the issue. To learn if the effects of exercise depend on genetics and early family life, doctors in Finland studied nearly 16, same-sex twins. The participants were all healthy when the study began in All the volunteers provided information on their exercise habits and other known predictors of mortality. People who reported exercising for more than 30 minutes at least six times a month at an intensity corresponding to brisk walking were classified as conditioning exercisers, subjects who exercised less were considered occasional exercisers, and those who did not exercise were considered sedentary.

During the study's year follow-up, 1, participants died. But was the protection genetic or kinetic?

Even among genetically similar twins, exercise was a strong independent predictor of survival. Whether you walk in a business suit or a sweat suit, on city streets or country roads, it's still the same left, right, left for health. Walking for walking's sake shows you are giving exercise the priority it deserves. It will get you away from the demanding routines of daily life, a nice plus for mental health. And by changing into walking shoes and athletic togs, you'll be able to build up to a pace that's difficult to achieve on the way to work. Good shoes are important.

Most major athletic brands offer shoes especially designed for walking. Fit and comfort are more important than style; your shoes should feel supportive but not snug or constricting. Look for a padded tongue and heel pad.

How Much Exercise?

The uppers should be light, breathable, and flexible, the insole moisture-resistant, and the sole shock-absorbent. The heel wedge should be raised, so the sole at the back of the shoe is two times thicker than at the front. Finally, the toe box should be roomy, even when you're wearing athletic socks. Your shoes are worth a little thought, but your clothing is strictly a matter of common sense and personal preference. A T-shirt and shorts are fine in warm weather. An ordinary sweat suit will do nicely when it's cool, but a nylon athletic suit may be more comfortable.

Add layers as the temperature drops; gloves and a hat are particularly important. If you really get into it, a water-repellent suit of Gore-Tex or a similar synthetic fabric will keep you warm without getting soggy with sweat. For safety's sake, pick brightly colored outer garments, and always wear a reflector on country roads if it's dark. Walk facing cars if you don't have a sidewalk underfoot, and avoid high-speed and congested traffic. Beware of dogs and, for that matter, people; be sure unfamiliar locations are safe, and even then, try to walk with a companion.

Before you take a serious walk, stretch to warm up; stretch again to cool down afterwards. Start out at a slow pace, and slow down toward the end of your walk as well. Begin with routes that are well within your range, and then extend your distances as you improve. The same is true of your pace; begin modestly, then pick up your speed as you get into shape.

How walking to work changed my life

Intersperse a brisk clip with a less strenuous stride, and then gradually extend these speedier intervals. Add hills for variety and additional intensity. One of the nice things about walking is that you don't need special skill, much less lessons. The main thing is to walk naturally and comfortably. But if you want to aim for an ideal stride, a few tips may help. Try to keep your posture erect with your chin up, your eyes forward, and your shoulders square. Keep your back straight, belly flat, and butt tucked in.

Keep your arms close to your torso, bent at the elbow. Take a natural stride, but try to lengthen your stride as you improve. Land on your heels, and then roll forward to push off with your toes. Swing your arms with each stride, and keep up a steady, rhythmic cadence. To stay motivated, walk with a friend or listen to a radio or MP3 player. And for some people, the best motivation is a dog — studies show that owning pets is good for health, and walking the dog is a major reason for this benefit. To avoid problems, back off if you are ill or injured, always listen to your body, stay well-hydrated, and avoid hazardous conditions.

Consider walking in a mall if it's too hot, cold, wet, or slippery outdoors. You can also consider using a treadmill at home or at a health club. Exercise burns calories. In the case of walking and running, the calories you burn depend much more on the distance you cover and your body weight than on your pace. This table shows calories burned per mile of walking or jogging on the level for people of varying weights:. A hundred or so calories a mile might not seem like much, but they can add up to better weight control.

For example, a study of 4, men and women found that the average American gains about 2.

Live Longer With Exercise: Getting Fit for Life

But during the year study, people who walked gained significantly less weight than those who didn't; the more walking, the less weight gain. And the benefit was greatest in the heaviest individuals. For example, walking for just 35 minutes a day saved a pound person about 18 pounds of flab over 15 years of aging. Walking has it all. Simple and natural, it doesn't require any instruction or skill. It can be a very modest form of exercise or it can demand enough skill and intensity to be an Olympic sport.

You can walk alone for solitude or with friends for companionship. You can walk indoors on a treadmill or outside in the city or country, at home or away.

Your steps to health and great shape

You can get all the benefits of moderate exercise with a very low risk of injury. And to boot, walking is inexpensive.

All things considered, Charles Dickens got it right: "Walk to be healthy, walk to be happy. Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. Harvard Men's Health Watch.

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Exciting benefits of walking for heart health, including lower risk of heart attack and stroke Updated: July 18, Published: August, E-mail Address. First Name Optional. Walking and exercise guidelines The benefits of physical activity depend on three elements: the intensity, duration, and frequency of exercise. Walking vs. Walkers have one foot on the ground at all times. Walking your steps to health Walking on streets and trails is superb for health. Are benefits of walking for health genetic or kinetic?

Your shoes may have more to say about your health than your genes. You can take a minute walk around the block or spend 10 minutes sweeping the porch. It all adds up. But a simple goal is to try to get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days. You may be able to do that some weeks and not others. Remember, it's a goal and not a rule. Do what works for you.

Tavis Smiley: There Are No Shortcuts. You Find Your Path By Walking It.

Exercise is planned activity like aerobics classes, tai chi, spin classes, or swimming. Physical activity is the way you "sneak" movement into your day, like walking the dog or gardening. Adding both to your routine will help you stay healthy and live longer. But always check with your doctor before suddenly being more active. You should start to feel stronger and have more energy in just a few weeks. Healthy Aging Guide.