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”

Benefits

  • 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

Walking 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week can halve the risk of heart disease and reduce stress, cholesterol, and blood pressure

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

 

Kendall Wisehart DPT, ATC Bio

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