Of all the activities that are recommended to us as part of a healthy lifestyle, walking is very high on the list. Because it’s already a learned skill, requires no equipment, and is doable everywhere, walking is a great activity for everyone. 

Let’s take a look at what produces the significant changes to our body systems when we engage in exercise. What causes our cardiovascular and respiratory systems to improve and our muscles and bones to become stronger? 

Answering these questions will bring us to a conclusion as to whether or not you should regard walking as an exercise tool. 

THE BODY’S RESPONSE TO POSITIVE STRESS

We don’t ordinarily regard stress as something positive, but in the case of exercise, it is exactly that. 

It was discovered over a hundred years ago that our bones respond to increased load forces over time by becoming denser and stronger. The actual inner architecture of the bone is transformed. It’s this fact that elevates resistance training to the top slot for combating the regressive bone tissue changes associated with aging. There is no osteoporosis drug available that can produce the results achieved from consistent resistance exercise. This form of exercise systematically stresses the bones by using them to move through greater forces than normal. 

The same type of responses take place within the cardiovascular and respiratory systems when subjected to the positive stress demands of exercise.  

Consider the latest lesson from our ventures in space. After spending significant time in an environment of weightlessness, our astronauts returned to Earth slightly taller and having developed a new source of back pain. They returned taller because their spines became straighter in the absence of gravity. One might imagine that in the context of being weightless, the aches and pains associated with the spine would disappear given the lack of gravity’s downward pull. On the contrary–without the normal gravitational pull experienced on Earth, the spine and its supporting components degenerated for lack of normal stresses.

Read more about it here:

http://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2016/10/25/13392824/astronauts-back-pain-health-space-spinal-muscles                                 
What we can conclude here is that normal activity is necessary simply to prevent regression. This is not news, but an additional confirmation of the often cited ‘use it or lose it’ truism.

So let’s respond to the question posed in the title–is walking really exercise?  I recommend that you consider walking as normal activity necessary to maintain normal functioning. Being active is definitely better than not. 

If you use your walking to challenge your current fitness level by walking faster or going uphill and– your body is responding with an elevated heart rate and your breathing is at a faster pace —your body is being stressed in positive ways and, over time and with consistent effort, you will become stronger and your body systems more efficient. 

It is at this point of adding additional stress that walking becomes exercise. Until then, like the astronauts and the gravity on Earth, walking is simply business as usual and necessary to stay even. 

This distinction is critical for your progress. If you are taking the time to walk, make the slightly greater effort that will result in life-changing results through your consistent discipline! 

To Your Health and Wellness, 

Steven
The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Senior Health and ven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0