Imagine. A gentle breeze whispers through your hair. The sun tiptoes across your face. Your mind drifts like a cloud.
But you don't have to lie on a tropical island to reach nirvana. Just go for a walk.
Truly the feel-good sport, walking allows you to escape stress, lose weight, boost your energy, lower your blood pressure, raise your HDL (good) cholesterol, and reduce your risk of diabetes and osteoporosis. And you can do it anytime, anyplace.
The more quickly you walk, the faster the calories burn. A 140-pound woman burns about four calories a minute if she walks a mile in 20 minutes (or 3 miles per hour). The calories jump to 5.2 per minute for a 15-minute mile (4 mph) or 7.7 per minute for a 12-minute mile (5 mph).
Walking is an equal opportunity exercise, says Kathy Smith, a fitness instructor who created a walking program exclusively for us. "There aren't any biases against uncoordinated people, and everyone knows how to do it. It's a 'no excuses workout' because you don't need equipment or a gym."
You don't even have to walk outside to get health benefits. A treadmill burns more calories and raises cardiovascular fitness more effectively than stationary bikes, stair climbers, rowers, and ski machines, according to a 1996 study by the Medical College of Wisconsin and Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Milwaukee. Why? The researchers believe that people work harder while walking because it's something they do every day.
Continued on page 2: Getting Started