Walking for Fitness and Health

Walking is a moderate, low impact exercise that is accessible to almost everyone. As well as being a more appealing choice to those not so keen on strenuous activities, it is also a perfect way to ease into fitness and health. Some of the advantages of walking are, that it is relatively safe, is easy to perform and its health benefits are many. People can walk to achieve weight loss or to improve their fitness and there are also a host of health and wellness benefits as well (Last week’s introduction to walking can be read by clicking HERE) .

Preparing to Walk

Before commencing a walking program, it is always advisable to assess your health. If you have not Running Shoesexercised for an extended period of time, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or any other medical condition, you smoke or you are overweight, then you should consult a physician prior to starting any exercise program.

Invest in a good pair of walking shoes (trainers). Select a pair with proper arch support, a firm heel and thick flexible soles that cushion your feet, elevate the heel and absorb shock. Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing that is suitable to your particular environment and dress in layers so that you can peel off items if you get hot. It is also advisable to wear bright colours and reflective tape, in order that cyclists and motorists can see you.

I have on occasion, read about or even seen people who have been injured by cars or bicycles whilst walking. Hence, I strongly advise that you look for a safe location to walk in such as a park, quiet streets, a pedestrian track, an athletics field or even a shopping centre.

It is important to take care of your limbs and organs by incorporating a warm-up and cool-down to every exercise session. The most effective way to achieve this, is to start walking at a slow pace and to gradually build up the intensity. Then reduce your pace towards the end of your walk to bring your heart rate down. It is also advisable to add some stretches to the end of the cool-down phase.

Walking for Health

There are numerous health benefits to be gained from a regular walking program. These include reducing the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer and mental illness. These are all conditions that become more prevalent in middle age.Fitness Walking

As is common with other types of exercise, the endorphins that are released whilst walking help to improve mood and to reduce stress and anxiety.

Regular walking helps to give knee joints a good work-out and improves the surrounding muscle strength. It is also one of the best choices of exercise if you already have joint problems or osteoporosis because it does not put excessive pressure on your joints and bones.

Although you may initially feel tired, energy levels will be boosted over time and sleep patterns are likely to become deeper and more restful.

Walking for Fitness

There are three principle objectives to a walking program. Some people walk to improve fitness, some do it to induce weight loss, whilst others do it for both reasons. For each of these, three different variables come into play. They are frequency (number of sessions a week), time (how long you walk for) and intensity (how hard you work). These will be discussed in more depth in my next article.

In order to achieve cardiovascular fitness, walking needs to be at a brisk tempo, where heart rate is raised and there is an element of breathlessness. Fitness walks tend to be shorter in duration and less often than weight loss walks. A specific example would be to walk three to four times a week, for up to forty minutes at a fast pace. The forty minutes is inclusive of ten minutes for warm-up and cool-down. A fast pace is where you will be breathing hard but not gasping for air.

Walking for Weight loss

A fundamental problem with weight loss is the fact that the fat invariably rWalking for Weight Losseturns, once a person stops dieting. After years of studies, the experts have eventually come to a modicum of agreement. The general consensus is for long term lifestyle changes to be made to both eating habits and exercise. Walking is a convenient and easy form of exercise that is extremely well suited to fulfilling or being part of the exercising role.

Walking for weight loss is slower than for fitness but requires longer sessions and greater frequency. An example would be to walk a minimum of five days a week for forty five to sixty minutes and at a brisk but comfortable pace.

Walking in Middle Age

Walking is an effective way of achieving long term fitness and of controlling weight. It is a particularly appropriate form of exercise for middle age people, as it is low impact and poses lower health risks than most other types of exercise.

There are many different routines that can be incorporated into a walking program as well as a wide range of basic equipment that can be used to provide resistance. These will be discussed next time (click HERE to view specific walking programs).

Sauna and Steam Rooms

During a recent trip to Austria, I got to sample a couple of the numerous saunas and steam rooms that we came across. The vast majority of public swimming pool Hapimag Bad Gastein Steam Roomcomplexes, spas and quality ski resort hotels have sauna areas which are particularly well attended by skiers, after a strenuous day on the slopes. The standard set up for most of the facilities that I came across, included saunas, a variety of steam rooms, a massage and spa area, a relaxation area and shower facilities. In Austria and Germany, cold showers or exposure to fresh air in a special open air room, after a sauna, are considered a must.

Difference between Sauna and Steam Room

One of the first things I learnt whilst sweating profusely in a heated room, was the difference between a sauna and a steam room. Saunas provide a dry heat that radiates throughout the room and is typically set to a temperature that ranges from 160-Hapimag Bad Gastein Sauna210 degrees Fahrenheit (70-100 degrees Celsius). Small amounts of water can sometimes be poured over heated rocks to create some moisture but generally, the humidity levels are low (ranging from 5-30 percent). Steam rooms, on the other hand, provide moist heat in an enclosed room and temperatures typically range from 105-120 degrees Fahrenheit (40-50 degrees Celsius). The humidity level is typically around 100 percent. Neither one is necessarily better than the other and it all depends on the user’s preference.

Sauna/ Steam Feel Good Effect

Each time I used the sauna facilities at my resort, I emerged feeling relaxed and reinvigorated. I found that my tired muscles had recovered and stopped aching and my skin felt clean and fresh. So what are the real benefits of taking a sauna or steam bath? The reason I use the word ‘real’ is that there is very little conclusive evidence of the alleged benefits of using a sauna or steam. “There is little evidence that they (saunas) have health benefits above and beyond relaxation and a feeling of well-being,” says Dr. Harvey Simon, editor-in-chief of Harvard Men’s Health.

Sauna Benefits

The principle effect of a sauna’s heat is to increase the body’s core temperature at a rapid rate, which leads to profuse sweating and increased heart rate. This is similar to the effects Sauna Thermometer Hygrometerelicited by moderate exercise. As such, similar benefits can occur. Some of the more widely held beliefs on the benefits of a sauna include:

Sauna for Weight Loss

Generally, after spending time in a sauna, your weight will be less than before you went in. The main reason for this is the loss of fluid from the body as a result of profuse sweating. This reduction in body mass will quickly return once you replace these lost fluids and rehydrate. There is, however, some assistance to weight loss due to the increase in metabolic rate that occurs whilst in a sauna. A person’s body must expend energy to produce sweat and so an element of passive weight loss will occur.

Sauna Detoxification

One of the main perceived benefits of a sauna is helping to rid the body of toxins or impurities. The theory is that the increased blood circulation stimulates the sweat glands, releasing the built-up in toxins and waste that your body has trapped in the fatty layers just beneath your skin. The majority of health care professionals maintain that sweating is the body’s way of cooling down and is not an effective way of expelling impurities. Donald Smith, a professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, claims sweating eliminates less than one percent of toxins and most certainly will not purge metals such as mercury or lead.

Sauna for Stress and Sore Muscle Relief

The heat from a sauna helps to warm and loosen muscles and is effective in reducing residual muscle soreness. Saunas can also stimulate your body to release endorphins, Sauna Benefitswhich help reduce stress and increase energy levels. I certainly felt more relaxed and less sore after time spent in the sauna and my sleep patterns improved markedly.

Effects of Sauna on the Skin

Exposing skin to the heat of a sauna is effective in removing dead skin cells to reveal a fresh and clean layer of healthy cells. Skin will look healthier and more vibrant. Blood vessels dilate when in a sauna, increasing the flow of fluids and oxygen to the skin cells, thus helping to improve skin tone, elasticity, texture and color.

Sauna and Blood Circulation

A sauna can help to improve blood circulation, as the heat brings blood closer to the skin and increases blood flow to the body’s extremities.

Sauna Warnings

Sauna’s are not for everyone and people with certain conditions such as high blood pressure and heart problems, should consult their Sauna Safetyphysician before being exposed to these extreme forms of heat.

People need be aware and avoid overexposure and dehydration. Only stay in a sauna whilst feeling comfortable and ensure you drink lots of water before and after a session. It is advisable to stay away from alcohol prior to entering a sauna as it may lead to nausea and reduced awareness of your surrounds.

Finally, you may be tempted to trifle with the furnace or dry rocks in a sauna. This is highly dangerous and can lead to serious burns.

Health and Fitness Benefits of Winter Sports

Winter Sports Health & Fitness

The majority of skiing enthusiasts travel to their favourite winter playgrounds with little thought of the health and fitness benefits of this most enjoyable activity. It is more about Austria Skiing Vacationhaving fun, perfecting technique, taking in the scenery and enjoying the atmosphere. It is almost a supplementary bonus that winter sports vacations are probably the most beneficial activity based holiday option for fitness and health. The majority of winter sports provide an extensive body workout, with almost all major muscle groups being utilised and toned.

There are a variety of winter sports and activities to choose from including downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing and skating. I will touch on a couple of these but the emphasis of this article will be on downhill skiing.

The Benefits of Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are less popular than snowboarding and downhill skiing and stimulate the energy systems of a human body in a very different way. Cross Country SkiingCross country skiing, in particular, activates the aerobic energy systems and is one of the best sports for building endurance and burning calories. It entails moving nonstop for an extended period of time, while the heart moves oxygen to your muscles, providing them with energy.

A fundamental difference between cross-country skiing and other types of endurance exercise, like running and cycling, is that the upper body plays a major role. Evidence of the health and fitness benefits of cross country skiing were highlighted in a recent study by Swedish and US researchers on two groups of healthy and independent octogenarian men. One group comprised of long time cross-country skiers who trained on a regular basis, while the other group did not do any formal exercise beyond the activities of daily living. The remarkable thing is, that the former had almost twice the cardiovascular and muscular conditioning of the latter group. These results were then compared to previous studies of lifelong octogenarian endurance athletes and it was found that the skiers were approximately forty percent fitter. The study concluded that the full-body workout provided by cross-country skiing, is uniquely effective.

Alpine Skiing

Downhill skiing and snowboarding provide a very different workout to cross Health & Fitness Benefits of Skiingcountry skiing. The first two require shorter bursts of energy, as most ski runs take less than five minutes to complete. It is a power sport that strengthens muscles whilst improving balance, flexibility and agility. At the same time, it is also the perfect way of burning calories. One of the biggest benefits of skiing, is the fact that you do not feel like you are spending between five and eight hours in a day actively exercising!

The Fitness Benefits of Skiing

Downhill skiing entails the coordinated movement of several major muscles, particularly the outer and inner thighs, hamstrings, the gluteal area and calves. It also works the core muscles, the back and even the upper body which has the added effect of improving the strength, stamina and flexibility of these muscle groups.

Another bonus of downhill skiing is that it gives an excellent cardio workout, strengthening the heart, improving your circulatory system and releasing oxygen to your muscles. Improving a cardiovascular system requires elevating heart rate, which increases blood circulation and brings nutrients and oxygen through the body’s tissues. Thus helping to remove waste from the body more quickly. Ultimately, the muscles begin to draw in more oxygen and blood. This produces more capillaries and leads to muscle expansion and strengthening.

The Health Benefits of Skiing

Skiing is a weight bearing and muscle resistance exercise that facilitates bone and joint health as well as growth. The Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles endorses skiing for the prevention of and slowing down of bone loss, Skiing in Austriadue to osteoporosis, ageing and wear and tear to the body. In addition, coordination, posture and balance are improved significantly whilst skiing which is important in helping to delay the ageing process.

An improvement in mental health is a positive spin-off of skiing. Recent studies have revealed that people’s mood and anxiety level improve when they are exercising outdoors.

Skiing for Weight Loss

Skiing can be a highly effective aid to losing weight. A skier of average ability will burn about 2000 calories in a day on the slopes, while someone who is in the advanced category, up to 3000 calories. The main reasons for the differential in calorific burn are due to gradient and type of skiing. Experts tend to ski down steeper slopes that require the body to work harder to maintain body balance. They are also more likely to negotiate moguls and go off-piste which uses more muscle power and burns even more calories.

Then there is the environmental benefit. Being exposed to cold temperatures forces your body to raise its Ski-slope Injuriestemperature and it does this by using energy and burning additional calories.

Winter Sports injuries

As a final note, always be vigilant against the risk of injury, as a wide range of injuries do occur in snow skiing. Hip, knee and ankle injuries are very common, particularly injuries of the anterior cruciate ligament. Skiers frequently put their arms out to break a fall, resulting in shoulder and arm dislocations, sprains and fractures.

The best ways to prevent injury are too ensure you have some level of fitness before going on a skiing holiday, to ski within your ability and to take ski lessons. A large percentage of injuries happen later in the day, when a person is fatigued. So taking regular rest breaks throughout the day, is very important.

Remembering of course, when doing any form of exercise, to drink copious amounts of water, as even mild levels of dehydration can affect physical and mental ability and endurance.