Take a hike for your health

We have heard of the benefits of exercise but much of the population doesn't have the time, motivation or desire to commit to an exercise program. So, is there a solution? As a matter of fact, you have already committed yourself to one physical activity and you have been doing it on a regular basis. The easiest exercise program is walking.

A new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that over half of adults over the age of 18 are overweight. Two-thirds are trying to lose weight through physical activity – especially walking – but only one in five is exercising enough to lose weight. About 60 percent of Americans do not exercise regularly. The key is to get off the couch and start moving.

According to the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America, if you walk for 30 minutes each day you'll be able to shed between 16 and 18 pounds of fat each year. That's great results from a low-impact activity that requires no special gear and can be done anywhere. Walking on a regular basis will boost your energy, help you cope with stress, anxiety and depression, improve your self-image, increase resistance to fatigue, and improve your ability to sleep well. Walking tones muscles, burns extra calories, helps control appetite and blood pressure, lessens a diabetic's need for insulin and boosts the level of good HDL-cholesterol.

A preliminary study has found that exercise may rev up a person's brainpower. Exercise increases the speed of the decision-making process and accuracy of answers. Imagine what a positive impact walking before class can make.

Ever wonder why so many people are told to take a walk when they're upset or angry? It turns out that walking is more than just an escape; it eliminates stress hormones called catecholamines, generally referred to as adrenaline, from the body. This means that with each step you take, you can burn away stress. Walking reduces muscle tension and increases the production of beta-endorphins, hormones that make you feel great after the exercise. All the cells in the body start functioning at their highest levels of efficiency. In short, when you're stressed out, a walk beats a bar of chocolate any day.

Use time between classes and work to walk around campus. The University of Alaska Anchorage campus is spread out. A round trip to school can make up to 6000 steps and about an hour of walking. An average 150-pound person will burn 350 calories during that time, more if you walk in the snow. In 10 days you should be able to melt away one pound of body fat, not bad for a brisk walk.

Don't waste your time looking for the closest parking spot. Instead of eating that extra snack take a brisk stroll about the campus. Use the stairs. Grab a buddy for a walk to keep you company and improve your friend's health as well.

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Use a pedometer for counting steps throughout the day. Set a goal for yourself, maybe 5000 steps a day, and aim for progression.

Start by walking at a comfortable speed as far as you can. Each week increase the distance. After a few weeks you won't be content to stroll along, it's time to add speed. By picking up the pace a little, you will walk farther in a shorter amount of time, increasing your aerobic strength.

Even if you think that you are getting enough daily exercise, consider that numerous researches show that most people generally underestimate how much they eat and overestimate how much they exercise. It wouldn't hurt to add some walking to your program. Chances of over-training from this simple activity are slim to none.

For more information, email Elena Trousevskaya at [email protected]