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The benefits of: Walking

By Brigid Delaney
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- For many of us the thought of going to the gym makes us sweat -- in fear. Common anxieties include the crowds, the strange machines, the unforgiving exercise clothes and the likelihood of doing the exercises all wrong.

That's why for those embarking on a fitness regime, a daily walk is ideal exercise. It's free: all you need is a pair of trainers and some comfortable clothes.

Walking gives you the opportunity to explore your local area and you can do it with the dog, your children or use it as an opportunity to catch up with a friend.

Many people use the daily walk as an opportunity to get some "me time" -- to get out of the house or office, clear their head, do some thinking or enjoy nature.

As walking is something you can do at your own pace, you should set yourself goals. Maybe start with walking around the block for 20 minutes a day and then build up to longer walks- such as an hour in the mornings before work.

The stronger and fitter you feel though walking, the more inclined you will be to vary your route to harder or more difficult terrain, to increase your walking speed or to walk using hand weights for greater resistance.

Many people's fitness levels have improved through walking. A few years ago a book called the "Clothesline Diet Club" became a best seller in Australia. It encouraged overweight people to walk around their clotheslines each day to get into the habit of walking.

Once participants felt their fitness rise together with their confidence levels they joined gyms, started running or began group exercise classes.

Karen Gatt, a Melbourne mother who weighed 136 kilograms was depressed about being overweight. She shed sixty-seven kilos by power walking around the clothesline in her backyard and eating sensibly. She now advocates the same approach in her slimming clubs.

Regardless of whether you want to lose weight, keep fit or just get some fresh air, walking is wonderful exercise.

As well as kick-starting your fitness regime, regular walking can:

  • Increase muscle strength.
  • Improve posture.
  • Prevent heart disease.
  • Reduce high blood pressure.
  • Improve joint mobility.
  • Increase lung capacity.
  • Reduce risk of osteoporosis.
  • Help with weight loss

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    Get on the good foot and step out of your slothful ways.

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