By Vicki Santillano, DivineCaroline
When I’m feeling anxious or sad, a long, brisk walk is a surefire way to cheer me up. All I need are a pair of comfortable shoes and good music and whatever’s troubling me falls away, step by step. And despite how many miles I log, it never feels like exercise because it doesn’t meet what I consider to be exercise’s requirements — sore, aching muscles and sweat soaking through my shirt. Walking is too fun to be considered exercise — or so I thought.
How Much Exercise Do We Need?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, we should get sixty to ninety minutes of exercise a day. That sounds intimidating, but the recommendation doesn’t specify what type of exercise — just that we should be on our feet for an hour a day, and not even all at once. Many Americans don’t come close to this, which spurred the “10,000 steps a day” recommendation (equivalent to about thirty minutes of walking).
Walking is the most popular type of exercise in America and it’s not hard to see why. After all, taking a walk requires little money or preparation and isn’t nearly as intimidating as running or other strenuous activities. A 2007 Duke University Medical Center study found that people who walked thirty minutes almost every day of the week lost weight and lowered their risk for metabolic syndrome. But as great as 10,000 steps a day is for our health, it’s not a replacement for a good sweat session. Making your walk a workout requires more than taking a simple stroll around the block.
Walking Can Work — But It Takes Work, Too
Anything that raises the heart rate into its target cardiac zone — about 60 to 80 percent of the maximum heart rate is considered a good aerobic workout. So as long as we walk quickly enough to increase our heart rates significantly, we can count it toward those sixty to ninety minutes.