Aerobic Exercise and Benefits of Walking
By Kendall Wisehart DPT, ATC
What is aerobic exercise?
- Simply put aerobic exercise or “cardio” is activity that requires increased activity of the heart to pump oxygen rich blood the muscles.
- Examples include walking, running, hiking, and swimming
- Aerobic refers to “with oxygen” whereas anaerobic refers to “without oxygen”
- Mental benefits include increased confidence, emotional stability, memory and brain function
- Physical benefits include strengthened heart and lungs, lower cholesterol, improved immune function, and lower blood pressure – among many others!
- Fitness benefits include improved muscle tone, stamina, and energy levels for both work and play
Disease Prevention (via ACSM)
- Seniors who walk 6-9 miles/week are less likely to suffer from mental decline as they age, including dementia
- Walking 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week, along with diet changes, can halve the risk of Type II Diabetes
- Walking 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week can halve the risk of heart disease and reduce stress, cholesterol, and blood pressure
- Walking can reduce pain and improve function, mobility, mood, and quality of life without worsening symptoms for those with arthritis
- Walking triggers endorphins, promotes relaxation, and can help prevent anxiety and depression
Other benefits of walking (via ACSM)
- Walking 45 minutes/day halves your odds of catching a cold
- Walking 1 minute can extend life by 1.5 to 2 minutes
- Walking 20-25 minutes/week can extend life by several years!
How do I get started?
- If you have health issues – talk to your doctor and ask to see a physical therapist
- Choose an activity that you enjoy. It can be as easy as walking or gardening or as intense as hiking or running
- Find a friend! Having the support of a friend of family member will help keep you going
How much should I do?
- For most healthy individuals: 30 minutes, 5 days a week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise OR 20 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise
- A quick way to gauge intensity is Target Heart Rate. To calculate: 220 – (your age) x 70%. Example: 220 – 45 years old x .70 = 122.5 beats per minute (bpm)
- You should be able to carry on a conversation with your walking partner without shortness of breath
Can I over-do it?
- Absolutely! Just like a sedentary lifestyle, overactivity can have its own negative consequences like injury and reduced immune function
- Developing a consistent exercise routine is key in preventing over-training, this includes rest days
- A workout or training session is only as effective as how much you can recover from it
What’s considered “in-shape”?
- Everyone will have their own unique definition of fitness, related to their fitness goal
- A lower resting heart rate is just one indicator of fitness, normal RHR is 60-100 bpm
Other biomarkers like blood pressure and cholesterol may be used to determine fitness