A number of walks are taking place this month in Tupelo, Oxford and elsewhere in Northeast Mississippi to promote fitness and, in some case, to raise money. Given a growing enthusiasm for walking as exercise, Allison Ford-Wade, an associate professor of health, exercise science and recreational management at the University of Mississippi, talked with Daily Journal reporter Errol Castens about its effectiveness.
Q: How does walking compare with running as a form of exercise?
A: Mainly, the intensity is different. Walking puts less stress on the muscles and bones. It’s a good place to start for people who are not currently physically active, and it’s good if you have bad knees or other limitations.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends being physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. For some of the obese population, it may not be possible to walk 30 minutes at a time, so it’s OK to start walking 10 minutes instead or whatever you can tolerate and work up to a half-hour or more. If you walk at a 15-minutes-per-mile pace, that’s a good pace.
One of the things we encourage people to do once they begin a walking program is to increase its intensity. The point is to get the heart rate up and to burn calories. If people are looking to lose weight, we don’t encourage them to start running right away, though. Running definitely isn’t for everyone.
Q: What should a walking regimen aim to achieve?
A: It’s different for every person. For someone wanting to lose weight, it’s helpful to walk more than just to maintain your weight and fitness – as much as 60 to 90 minutes a day. For those who haven’t exercised in a long time, the goal may be just to get out and exercise.
For nearly everyone, part of the goal is to increase or maintain your cardiovascular health. Your maximum heart rate is 220 beats per minute minus your age. You never want to get too close to that. You can start out at 60 or 70 percent of that maximum. People who are sedentary should really see their doctor before they start an exercise program.
Q: What other exercises would you recommend to go with a walking routine?
A: People also need to do some weight training for body composition, for building bones, for building muscle. It’s also important to do stretching exercises before and after exercise; that helps prevent injuries.
You don’t have to go into a gym; you can do plenty of exercises at home. For some people, one- or two-pound weights are plenty to start, and they can work their way up to gallon milk jugs.
If you want to join a gym, people there can show you the right techniques to get the most out of an exercise program. I would recommend weight training three days a week and walking the other days.
The American College of Sports Medicine Web site (www.acsm.org) has a lot of good information for people at any level of fitness.
NEMS Daily Journal