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Walk Your Way to Brain Health – Tips to Find Your Pace and Path

Walking is arguably the best exercise, virtually anyone can enjoy! It’s a natural movement that benefits the very beginner, as well as the highly fit body builder.

Walking is safe, effective and low-impact on the joints. It doesn’t require practice or any special ability, yet the health benefits are many.

Besides trimming your waistline, it can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of or manage Type 2 diabetes, lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, improve your mood and help you stay fit and strong. Walking stimulates blood flow and provides oxygen to the brain, which leads to improved functioning and better ability to recall.

The only equipment required is a good pair of walking or running shoes and comfortable clothing. I suggest carrying and drinking water while you walk.

How Fast? How Far?

Dr. Amen says you should “walk as if you’re late.” So a slow stroll doesn’t count. Beginners should start with a level path, and begin with 15 minutes per walk, 3-5 times per week. Once you feel comfortable with that, increase either the duration or speed.

You’d be amazed that even body builders using walking to burn calories. Walking provides a slow steady calorie burn, and the intensity can be increased with an elevated path. That’s one reason why hiking is such a great exercise. When walking uphill, you get cardiovascular and muscular benefit! So find a local hike and enjoy the great outdoors, and intense workout.

To increase the intensity, you can use resistance bands, or hand weights to swing and lift in various ways to engage the upper body and arms.

Why Walk?

Walking is a form of cardiovascular exercise (cardio). Cardio is any exercise that raises your heart rate. A stronger cardiovascular system means more capillaries delivering more oxygen to cells in your muscles. This enables your cells to burn more fat during both exercise and inactivity. The bottom line? Walking increases your endurance.

Other Tips

Walking outside to get the benefits of natural sunlight and vitamin D. To help pass the time, you can listen to music or walk with a friend instead of going out to lunch. You can also get a pedometer, which tracks the number of steps you take. Set a goal to take 10,000 steps per day!

Try “Burst” Training

Did you know that a short burst of intense exercise is extremely beneficial not only for overall fitness but for building lean muscle tissue, burning fat and promoting longevity? If you want an even higher calorie, faster-fat burn, better brain booster exercise, try burst training. Also known as interval training, burst training involves periods of high-intensity bursts (or fast walk) followed by a few minutes of lower-intensity speeds (slow walk). The biggest benefit of burst training is it will convert you from a fat-storer to a fat-burner. Short-burst training helps raise endorphins, life your mood, and make you feel more energized.

There are endless ways you can put together a burst training workout. The whole idea is working the muscles with high-intensity, then rest briefly and repeat. Below is a sample of a heart-pumping 30-minute workout with bursts that Dr. Amen recommends.

Sample Burst Training Workout

3 minutes warm up
4 minutes fast walking (walk like you are late)
1 minute burst (run or walk as fast as you can)
4 minutes fast walking
1 minute Burst
4 minutes fast walking
1 minute Burst
4 minutes fast walking
1 minute Burst
4 minutes fast walking
3 minutes cool down

If you’re new to exercise, there will be a period of progression before you go “all out” with burst training. If you can’t manage to fit in or even do 30 minutes a day, even 15 minutes a day is okay to start with. Sticking with it is key. Eventually you’ll be walking further and faster.

Burst training is a great form of exercise for beginners as well as the super conditioned. Anybody can do burst training regardless of their fitness level. Both can use 30-minute workout above suggested by Dr. Amen. The only difference is that a beginner will start out slowly, and gradually build up speed and endurance, where the super conditioned will have more of an intense workout. Whatever gets you out of breath and provides an overload stimulus to the muscles is fair game.

The goal is to complete interval training by doing any exercise that allows you to work at a high intensity (elevating your heart rate) for a short burst followed by a brief recovery period. Running, cycling, rowing, swimming and walking fast are just a few examples of different exercises to choose from.

Make walking a daily priority. You’ll release good mood endorphins, feel more energized and your brain will thank you.

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