We began an earlier post on cardio fitness workouts by pointing out, “About two-thirds of Americans over 50 are overweight, and many overweight, older Americans are prime candidates for heart disease.”
As we said at that time, cardio workouts can help you feel younger, can lengthen your life, and may even help to prevent cancer and diabetes.
In the past, we’ve discussed great cardio exercises including cycling and playing tennis. This time, let’s discuss one more cardio activity that has proven beneficial to people of all ages. It even sounds like something Superman might do.
Power walking. Whether Superman has incorporated power walking into his training regimen or not, a great many seniors and younger Americans have—and many are convinced that, as far as cardio- and endurance-boosting activities go, power walking is second to none.
What exactly is power walking?
No, it doesn’t mean you walk at a Superman-like speed until you’re airborne. Power walking simply refers to walking at a speed that can be challenging and can offer the sort of health benefits that a casual stroll through the mall cannot. Power walking gets the heart pumping and the pores sweating.
For the average person, power walking involves maintaining a speed of about five miles an hour, though that varies according to the individual. Regardless of speed, power walking poses a serious workout if maintained for twenty to thirty minutes or more. It elevates the heart rate to beneficial, though not excessive, levels, and it comes without the jarring, impactful dangers often associated with running or jogging, since power walkers always have at least one foot on the ground.
What are the benefits of power walking?
The benefits of power walking are consistent with benefits associated with most forms of cardio and endurance training. One additional benefit, however, is that power walkers generally love going on those high-effort, sustained walks.
Power walking is something you can do just about anywhere, and many people love the opportunity power walking provides for exploring new locations, whether rural or urban, flat or sloped, sandy or grassy. To many people it represents the perfect alternative to the drudgery associated with a gym or treadmill—which true power walkers often save for rainy days when enjoying the outdoors isn’t an option.
Power walking is an exercise nearly anyone can get into following a medical checkup and a visit to the sporting goods or footwear shop. It’s easy to “calibrate” your speed, effort, and target heart rate to where you currently stand physically and any goals you and your doctor or trainer have set.
About the only complication many power walkers face is to find locations for their power walks that aren’t too crowded or that don’t involve crossing too many streets and waiting for red lights to change or traffic to pass.
Livestrong.com lists these five specific benefits of power walking:
- Weight management
Livestrong describes power walking as “an efficient method for burning calories.” Why? “Walking at a brisk pace of 4 mph burns anywhere from 236 to 345 calories per hour depending on your level of effort.” Ramp it up to 5 mph and … well, you get the picture.
- Improved health
Livestrong echoes what is commonly known—that the sustained sort of effort power walking requires can help prevent illness and disease. Specifically, it lowers the risk or likelihood of type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and stroke. Power walking can also help reduce blood pressure and levels of bad cholesterol.
- Reduced stress
As Livestrong puts it: “Power walking helps reduce the stresses associated with day-to-day living. One session every day helps redirect your focus and concentration away from stressful environments and situations; it is an efficient way to engage in time alone and release tension.” It is well known that stress is a factor increasing the likelihood and risk of some serious physical conditions—and any form of exercise that can help reduce stress is a winner.
- Better performance of daily tasks
Livestrong reports: “Power walking uses both upper body and lower body strength, which results in stronger muscles and bones. Improved body conditioning provides better endurance for carrying out daily tasks.”
- Convenient, cost-free, and time-efficient
There’s no gym to join, you can get a great workout whenever you get the urge, and the benefits can start kicking in the second you walk out your front or back door. What’s more, serious power walkers can save big on gas and even medical costs.
According to Dr. Dixie Thompson, head of the Dept. of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee, power walking meets American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, which call for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.
If you’re still not convinced that power walking may be for you, consider that a major Danish study, according to The Telegraph of London, has determined that people “who went on a fast walk daily were at half the chance of having a heart attack or stroke as those who didn’t.” Surprisingly, The Telegraph reports that jogging is 20 percent less effective than power walking at reducing that same risk.
Are you a power walker? If so, tell us about your experiences!
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