Research shows that half of those who start rigorous exercise programs will quit within a year. Most of us have stories of starting an exercise regimen only to abandon it. It appears that we approach exercise with unrealistic expectations, overestimating our own willpower even as we underestimate the discomfort we’ll experience with most forms of vigorous activity. Injury is another major factor that prevents people from continuing their exercise routines, and the likelihood of injury only increases as we get older.
But walking as a form of exercise doesn’t require willpower. Or leave us hobbling around in pain. We were born to walk, we evolved to walk, and, our sedentary habits aside, we can start walking – and keep walking – pretty much anytime we like. Over half the muscles in our bodies evolved to help us walk. We can do it without strain or pain, and when we are used to it, we can do it for several hours a day without suffering any ill effects.
More vigorous forms of exercise certainly stimulate the cardiovascular system more effectively and improve its performance more decisively. Studies show running, for example, will lead to more weight loss than walking if practiced regularly. But the effects of more aerobically stressful exercises are largely negated if we don’t perform them week after week, month after month and year after year. And that is very difficult to do for the majority of us. Too often the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak – or vice versa.