Is walking enough for good health?

Monday, 31 May 2021

One of the more commonly asked questions of Exercise Physiologists is whether or not walking alone is enough exercise for good health.

In this article, we’re going to explore the benefits, and possible short-comings, of walking, and whether or not it truly is enough to maintain your health.

Aerobic exercise

Walking is a type of aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise, and is great for many different reasons. If you haven’t been exercising for a while, walking is a good way to get started. It’s as simple as putting on some clothes (make sure they’re warm in winter), some walking shoes, and heading out of the front door!

Walking is effective in reducing your blood glucose levels during and immediately after exercise by using the glucose as energy. It can also improve the ability of your cells to take up glucose after you finish exercise – sometimes for as long as 48 hours after a single session. In the long term, walking is associated with improvements in diabetes management. It’s also an effective form of exercise to maintain or manage good heart health.

Australia’s physical activity guidelines recommended at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise at least five days per week. Walking is a great way to meet this guide. Try to walk briskly if you can and work up a bit of a puff. Walking with a friend is a great way to increase motivation, and helps you understand at what intensity you’re working.  If you can maintain a conversation while walking but need to take some big breaths, you’re likely walking at a moderate intensity. However, if you can sing or whistle while walking, you’re likely working at a low intensity. But if you can’t do either of these, you’re walking at a vigorous intensity.

However, walking is not for everyone. You might prefer to try another forms of aerobic exercise such as cycling, rowing, or swimming.

While there are a great range of benefits to walking, one thing it doesn’t target is your muscle strength and size. Your muscles are essential not just for your overall quality of life but also for diabetes management.

Resistance exercise and insulin

Muscle strengthening exercise, or resistance exercise, can improve how effectively your insulin works to take up the glucose in your blood. Some of the additional benefits include an increase in muscle size and strength. Because your muscles store glucose, holding more muscle means more space for storage. The more storage you have, the less likely it is the glucose to stay in your blood. On top of that, improvements in muscle strength are associated with improved functional ability, independence, quality of life, and bone density.

It’s recommended that we try to include resistance exercise at least twice a week, with a day of rest in between each session. Target large muscle groups and complete exercises that replicate the things you do every day. For example getting up from a seated to standing position or climbing a flight of stairs.

Furthermore, exercises that incorporate balance or flexibility are equally important because they help to reduce your falls risk as you get older, and improve your ability to maintain a range of motion and mobility.

The best type of exercise

Different forms of exercise have different benefits to your health, but research shows that a combination of exercise is best! But remember, the ‘best’ type of exercise for you is the type that you enjoy and can sustain. If you like what you do, and can do it consistently, that’s going to benefit you more the most.

Overall, walking is a great form of exercise and will have a range of benefits for your health. If you enjoy it, then keep it up! If you’d like to incorporate other forms of exercise, then that’s also great. As long as you keep physically active, you’ll experience wonderful health benefits regardless of the type.

If this article has raised any questions, feel free to reach out to our contact centre on 1300 342 238. We have Exercise Physiologists, Diabetes Educators, and Dietitians ready to help.

Beat it

Structured exercise of at least eight weeks’ duration has been shown to lower HBA1c by an average of 0.66% in people with type 2 diabetes. If you are interested in a FREE structured exercise program for people living with diabetes check out our Beat It program.

 

Jonathon Fermanis
Accredited Exercise Physiologist

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