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Food/Nutrition Columnist Author: Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN - Food and Nutrition Columnist - Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Walking Will Change Your Life

By Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN - Food and Nutrition Columnist -
Jun 23, 2014 - 12:05:00 AM

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( - Most of us can walk - from the end of the parking lot, around the mall, through the building at work, around the neighborhood, or in the park. But we don't. The average American walks very little. Research reported at the 74th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association ( cited Canadian adults living in the most walkable neighborhoods had the lowest incidence of obesity and diabetes. Every opportunity to get outside, to go to the corner store or walk your children to school can have a big impact on your future health, cut your risk for diabetes and reduce the chance you will be overweight.


  • Burns calories
  • Builds muscles
  • Builds bone
  • Prevents colds
  • Reduces the effects of aging
  • Increases mental sharpness
  • Helps to prevent weight gain
  • Reduces your risk for diabetes
  • Lengthens your life

A quarter of all trips we make are under a mile, but 75% of those trips are made by car. Though this may be partially habit, it is not totally your fault.  North American society has engineered physical activity out of our daily lives. Post-World War II vehicle-friendly suburbs often lack sidewalks, bike paths, parks, public transportation or shopping centers that we can reach on foot. Serious health problems and an epidemic of obesity may be an unanticipated by-product of the modern suburbs we've built. Study after study has shown that suburban residents walk less, bike less and are less physically fit than their city cousins. Many public health officials and community planners are currently working to redesign neighborhoods to encourage more outdoor activity by building more parks and adding sidewalks to neighborhoods.

Even without sidewalks, there are places we can walk: in shopping malls; through a large supermarket; around a museum, park or zoo; around and through the building at work; on the track at the local school; or on a treadmill.  Walking on a treadmill is slightly different than walking on solid ground. There are no natural ups and downs or wind resistance. If you add an incline, as little as 1%, you'll come closer to the benefits of a real life walk.

Walking is a perfect exercise. It doesn't require any special talent or equipment, it can be done at any age at a pace that's comfortable for you, and the risk of injury is almost non-existent. Start with a 10 minute walk. Begin by warming up for 2 to 3 minutes at a leisurely pace to help your heart rate adjust to the activity. Pick up the pace for 6 minutes and slow down for the last two. As you become more fit and add more time and distance, the beginning and end of each walk should remain the same with the middle getting longer and more vigorous.

Brisk walking, at 3 to 4 miles per hour, is considered a moderate intensity activity. To judge if you have reached this level you should be able to walk two miles in 30 to 40 minutes. Even if you are slower, you will burn calories and increase your fitness if you walk most days of the week.

If you need some motivation to get a walking program started consider these facts.

  • According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention not exercising is as dangerous as smoking, obesity, hypertension and drunk driving.
  • Middle-aged men who burn 200 calories a day exercising, which equals a 30-minute walk, cut their risk of impotence in half.
  • Americans average over 20 hours a week watching TV, which equals almost a full day a week. Consider, instead, just a half hour of exercise each day.
  • Good advice ages well. Hippocrates said -- Walking is man's best medicine.

Bottom line: Get off you seat and on your feet - start walking.

© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.

Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of the nutrition counter series for Pocket Books with sales of more than 8.5 million books.

Look for:

The Diabetes Counter, 5th Ed., 2014

The Fat and Cholesterol Counter, 2014

The Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd ed., 2013

The Calorie Counter, 6th Ed., 2013

The Complete Food Counter, 4th ed., 2012

The Protein Counter, 3rd Ed., 2011

The Ultimate Carbohydrate Counter, 3rd Ed., 2010

The Healthy Wholefoods Counter, 2008

Your Complete Food Counter App:

For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to:


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