The question I get most often regarding exercise is, “What is the best kind of exercise I can get?” Which I often answer with something like, “Well, that depends on your fitness level and your personal goals,” which isn’t definitively true.
There is, in fact, one form of exercise that doctors, trainers and other health professionals all agree is the single best method for improving overall health and wellbeing. Today, I will reveal the answer to this age-old question.
But before we get to that, I want to talk about one of my favorite runners up to the winner of the award for Best Exercise of All Time: walking.
Walking costs nothing and can be done anytime, just about anywhere. Walking or wheelchair rolling is technically affordable and easy if your neighborhood has accessible sidewalks and crosswalks, and people generally feel safe being outside. Our cities and counties, along with our transportation authorities, parks and recreation districts, businesses, schools, health care centers and local nonprofits all have a role in working together to increase access to safe and convenient places to walk and roll.
Whether you live near a park, have a walking route to school or make time to walk the halls and stairs of your apartment complex, walking isn’t as much about the setting, the pace or the distance as it is about taking those steps to move your body, which in turn moves your soul.
There are so many things that we as individuals and grassroots groups can do to get walking. If you take the bus, get off a stop early and walk to your destination. When you can, walk on your errands. If you drive, park farther away from your destination. Make a standing walking date with a friend. Put a walk on the family schedule after dinner. Start or join a community walking group. (Check out the details of our local EverWalk group at the end of this column!) Join advisory boards, nonprofits and community planning processes to support safe and convenient places to walk.
One in two Americans don’t know their neighbors. Remedy that today by taking a walk around your block. You might be surprised by how many friendly faces you meet.
Walking just 20 minutes a day can reduce your risk of premature death by 30 percent. Walking for 15 minutes after meals helps regulate blood sugar levels. Walking briskly for 35 minutes can have a significant positive influence on depression symptoms. Walking at a brisk pace for 45 minutes or longer will result in burning stored body fat, including the harmful internal belly fat that accumulates around your heart and liver. And, if you’re walking at a clip where it feels comfortable to talk, but not comfortable enough to sing, then your heart is getting a great workout — plus, everyone around you will be entertained by your trying to sing.
Of course, everyone knows that in the ranking of best-for-you exercises, running is better than walking, right? Not necessarily. Walkers who cover the same mileage as runners enjoy comparable reductions in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary heart disease. It takes longer for walkers to cover the distance but may be a more sustainable and accessible activity for many people.
This brings us back to that age-old fitness question: What is the best exercise you can do to improve your overall health? The definitive answer agreed upon by all experts without exception? The best form of exercise is … the one that you will actually do.
So, if running puts a smile on your face, get out and run. If it’s yoga you love, namaste. There may even be room in our wellness lives for weightlifting, HIIT, Zumba, Aquacize, pole dancing, rock climbing, Pickleball, rodeo, waltzing, boxing, Tai Chi, paddleboarding, soccer, fencing, cycling, Judo or swimming.
And if it’s walking you choose, I hope you’ll choose to come walk with our North Denver EverWalkers the first Saturday of every month at Sloan’s Lake. We meet on the playground by the parking lot at West 26th Avenue and Tennyson Street. All ages, abilities and walking paces are welcome! You can learn more about EverWalk and its mission to ignite a walking revolution at EverWalk.com and please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions about our community walks or how you can add walking to your wellness journey. That’s what I’m here for.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness, the original online wellness mentoring system. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant, and that it is only possible to do our best work in the world if we make a daily commitment to our health. Visit facebook.com/erika.taylor.303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.