What is the best form of exercise? Research points to walking
Like diets, exercise trends come and go. From Zumba classes to CrossFit, it seems like there are endless types workouts tailored for different levels of physical ability. But are these workouts really helping you get healthy or are they just all hype? And which kind is the best for overall health?
When it comes to the best form of exercise, experts say good old-fashion walking is the best.
"Walking is a superfood. It's the defining movement of a human," says Katy Bowman, a biomechanist based in Ventura, California. "It's a lot easier to get movement than it is to get exercise."
While other forms of exercise build endurance and burn fat, these health benefits mean nothing if people are sedentary before and after a workout.
"Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sitting around the rest of the day," Bowman says. "You can't offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise."
Instead, Bowman suggests in her book, Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement, that walking is type of movement the body needs and therefore, is the best form of exercise for cardiovascular heath and overall wellness.
A study last year by the University of Texas School of Public Health found that many people who view themselves as "active" fall into the actively sedentary category in reality. Researchers surveyed 218 marathoners and half marathoners to collect data about their training and sitting times. Researches found a median training time of 6.5 hours each week, compared to the eight to 10.75 hours of total sitting time.
There is a belief that people should push themselves to the point of exhaustion during a workout to reap healthy benefits, but all that is needed is about 7,500 steps each day. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, people should get about 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
A small study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise by researchers at Indiana University found that for every hour that is spent sitting, five-minutes of walking is enough to reverse harmful effects caused to arteries in the legs.
However, walking does have it downsides. Running is preferred for bone health and weight lighting is preferred for strength training. Still, walking increases circulation and supplies more blood and oxygen to the muscles, organs and even the brain. Walking regularly has been linked to improved memory and increased growth of new neurons. It also wards off the weakening of brain tissue associated with aging.
Walking also increases creativity, according to research from Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford University. In one experiment, the researchers asked 176 college students to come up with novel uses for everyday objects. Participants came up with four to six more novel uses when walking than when they were sitting.