Walking, which is something most people can do, is one of the finest exercises for relaxation and health.
I highly recommend it as a means of attaining physical fitness. While jogging and running are good forms of exercise for persons in excellent physical condition, it cannot be done by the many millions of people who suffer from arthritic problems, those with back injuries, foot or leg impairments or heart disease. However, most of these people can walk and I, in my medical practice, urge many such patients to do so, including those with coronary heart disease. Walking can actually help arthritic people (that is, if they’re not crippled) because it exercises the joints and improves circulation.
Individuals in good physical condition can walk at a brisk pace. It is not only good for exercising and toning muscles but is a valuable aid to cardiovascular fitness. It strengthens the heart and lungs, helps to lower blood pressure, and decreases cholesterol and triglycerides associated with coronary disease. When walking is done properly and is associated with proper diet, it can help reduce weight, enabling one to make the best use of fats and sugars (carbohydrates).
I would not advice people to walk in Olympic style as not many are capable of doing it. In Olympic walking, you are extending yourself with an extra stride of 10 to 16 inches which enables you to walk a mile only about three minutes slower than running it. An ordinary walker covers a mile in 12 to 15 minutes. A brisk pace is considered one mile in about 11 minutes and that’s a stride that can do you much good if you walk long enough and do it on a regular basis. I advise people to walk twice a day — in the morning before going to work and in the evening before bedtime. You can supplement that by walking on your lunch hour or to various errands. I quite often walk to the grocery store. Too many people have sedentary jobs that provide them with very little exercise, and so they should walk every chance they get.
People not in good physical condition can nevertheless walk. They should stop their walk when they get tired and rest awhile. Each individual has to gauge one’s own limitations on distance and pace. If you find that you can only stroll, that’s fine, too, as it can be a very relaxing exercise. Relaxation is always beneficial to health.
While walking is admittedly less effective on a time basis than jogging or running, you are exercising the same muscles when you walk, especially if you swing your arms (which I recommend for the most benefit). All you have to do is walk perhaps three times as long as you would jog to gain mutual fitness benefits. Walking sticks and canes are highly recommended because they help you to exercise your arms and shoulders. I advise switching from one arm to the other during various intervals in your walk. Actually, two walking sticks or canes are ideal for walking for exercise that will do you the most good. It may look ridiculous, but as you propel yourself forward, you’re exercising not only your arms and shoulders but virtually every muscle in your body. It’s like walking on all fours and it’s better than bicycling.
One final tip: when you walk, always try to do it as much as possible while away from vehicle exhaust fumes. The walk will be healthier. — Keith E. Kenyon, Jr., M.D.
Think of the pure pleasure that can come from putting one foot before the other in effortless rhythmic walking!
Walking is such great fun. For no walk is ever ordinary — no neighborhood or lane is ever the same. Every city pavement, every country path, has vistas to offer the walker. From moment to moment, as the sun rises or sets, the light for seeing is different. Shadows change. Forms and buildings change. The weather changes. Step out in a brisk walk and the mind clears. Your worries are left behind. Anxieties disperse. Energy is renewed.
For to walk is to escape. There are no telephones to jangle your nerves. Conversation can’t distract you. Bad news can’t reach you — and you can’t reach anyone. Not children, nor parents, nor spouse. You can go where you wish, stop, or change direction at will.
You can walk to think or (better still) walk not to think. And when you walk, you can gawk. It is you that is moving (not your car with its fixed environment). You feel the invigorating motion of air on your face. You see. You hear. You scent. You explore. You discover. You enrich your mind. You uplift your soul — with the changing shifting details of life. There the trees and building tops! There the pattern of narrow streets. There a cloud moving! There a blue jay! There a bird swimming in harbor water! — The Footwear Council
-from The Joy of Walking, by Jack Scagnetti, 1979 (the height of the 70s gasoline crisis)