What is walking? And why you should care?
“I will wake up at 5 a.m tomorrow; I surely will. The doctor has guaranteed weight loss if I walk for 30min every day. I have to be the one walking; to fit into the beautiful gown that I bought for my brother’s wedding. I will do it.”
With these words in your head, you feel highly motivated. In fact, you feel so motivated that you could go for the walk at that instant. But you know you have to wait till next morning to get things done: to walk and eventually get into shape, fit into the gown, and be the center of attraction at the party.
With the extra pounds weighing down your dreams, you have felt nothing but embarrassment for so long. But the doctor’s words have assured you that there is hope and you can surely get into your dream shape.
With hope in your heart, and a mind full of dreams, you go to sleep. The new pair of walking shoes, (an unplanned purchase) waits near the bed for you.
Its 5 a.m. the alarm clock calls out to you lovingly. You barely open your eyes and give it an irritated look. Your hand automatically pushes down the button, and you go back into your state of blissful sleep.
With the previous night’s heightened motivation pushed into oblivion, the walking shoes look at you sadly, hoping it would meet you soon.
I am sure it does for many of us.
Well, this was my story, before I fell in love with ‘walking’.
I have heard so many good things about walking, and yet I felt too lazy to try it out. Honestly, I didn’t care.it sounded like too much of hard work.
But the good thing is: once I did, I just couldn’t get out of it.
Now, I plan to make my relationship with walking long term, hopefully lifelong.
And for those who are still unsure about this relationship, let me help you get some clarity.
Let me tell you why you should say ‘yes’ to this relationship and what you are going to enjoy the process.
Let me start from the beginning.
What is walking?
I know that is a very silly question to ask.
Of course, you know what is walking.
We have been doing it for so long.
But, if I ask the same question to someone who has lost his/her motor function and is confined to his/her bed? What would they say? Maybe for them, it’s something they have never experienced or may feel like it’s from another lifetime. It would be a privilege for them, surely.
And yet, for those of us who are still enjoying the act of walking, most of the times we take it for granted.
We fail to realize that walking is not just an act of moving around with the help of our legs, but one of the easiest and cheapest way to exercise and stay healthy.
“Walking is the most ancient exercise and still the best modern exercise” – Carrie Latet.
Walking is considered an aerobic exercise that doesn’t require going to the gym or any expensive pieces of equipment. All you need are your two feet and the will to stay healthy.
Let us understand why you should take walking seriously.
What happens to your body when you walk?
Walking may seem an involuntary activity that we usually do to move from one place to another. But, what walking does to your body will surely amaze you. There is more to walking than what meets the eyes.
Walking benefits our health in both physically and mentally. Let me explain how –
Physical health benefits :
- Walking strengthens our heart
- Walking helps us reduce weight
- Walking helps in reducing blood sugar
- Walking eases joint pain
- Walking boosts immunity
- Walking boosts our energy level
- Walking tones our leg muscles
- Walking improves our balance and coordination
- Walking reduces the risk of chronic illnesses
- Walking delays the onset of varicose veins
- Walking helps improve digestion
- Walking helps to get better sleep
- Walking is good for women who are in the post-menopausal stage as it helps in increasing bone density
- Walking reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer
- Walking helps us become more fit
- Walking improves physical functions
- Walking improves vision
Mental health benefits
Apart from physical health benefits, walking improves our mental health as well.
- Walking helps improve mood
- Walking helps us become more creative
- Walking helps alleviate depression
- Walking also helps in alleviating anxiety
Now that you are aware of all the benefits it has on your body and mind, would you still not care about walking?
How much walking is good?
With your new-found awareness, I am sure you feel more motivated. But, now you might want to know, for how long should you walk to achieve the health goals.
Let us discuss them one by one –
For adults, the ideal duration for walking is 30 to 90 min per day. The American Heart Association (AMA) prescribes 150 min i.e. 2.5hrs of moderate activity per week. So walking for 30min per day will help you achieve the target. Of course, you can surely walk more for better results.
However, with the busy life that we lead, 30 min at a stretch might seem a bit challenging. In that case, you can break it into three 10min stretches of walking, 10 min each during the morning, after lunch and in the evening, or at night after dinner. To get the most out of the 10min, make sure you are without your phone or any other distractions. Many people do let their phones accompany them, only when they plan to listen to music or anything motivational to keep up their energy.
If you are planning to get into shape, the small walking stretches will not work for you. You need to a brisk walk for 30min at a stretch for your body to start burning fat. So, to reduce weight, you need to invest 30min after a 5min warm-up.
If you are new to walking, start with shorter periods of walking and then build upon the duration. That way your body will get adjusted to the new habit.
It is advisable to walk every day to enjoy the full benefits of walking. However, if you have to miss, make sure the break is not too long.
Consistency is the key here.
On the days that you miss your walk, make sure you do some strength training exercises to keep up the pace.
And of course, you do need to remember that if you feel too exhausted, make sure to take a day off. Give your body the scope to recover.
The pace of walking should be controlled. Always be conscious about your age and the health issues you may have before deciding on the pace at which you walk.
You can always take the advice of your doctor before starting any training program, including walking. This will help you identify your physical limitations and avoid potential injuries.
Now to know what is the right pace for you, take the “talk test”. At your right pace, you should be able to converse without getting breathless, but you should not be able to sing.
If you can sing, know that you are walking slow and need to pick up the pace.
On the other hand, if you find it hard to talk out loud, then you are walking at a vigorous-intensity pace. You may need to slow down a bit.
As your body gets used to the physical activity of walking, you can increase the intensity of your walking by walking up hills, walking with weights, walking longer, walking for a longer distance, or increasing the speed and then coming back to normal speed.
Disadvantages of walking too much
Our bodies are different and hence may not have the same capacity for exercise. Walking, while it can be used to your advantage, needs to be done as per your capacity. Too much walking done incorrectly can strain and damage the joints and knees.
To avoid injury and get the most benefit from walking, warm-up , and cool down with leg stretches. When starting your walking routine, some soreness is normal, but don’t continue a walking program that causes pain
Do not make the common mistake by doing too much too soon.
Warming up and cooling down
Before you start walking, it is always a good idea to warm up by walking slowly. Start each walk at a slow pace, giving your muscles time to warm up, and then pick up the speed.
After that, gently stretch your leg muscles holding each stretch for about 20 seconds. If you feel any pain, ease off the stretch.
In the same manner, after you have walked at your target pace, start cooling down by slowing your pace. A gradual cool-down will help prevent muscular stiffness and injury.
Types of walking you can try
There are various types of walking. Not all of them are high intensity and can serve the purpose of relaxing you.
A casual stroll
This is the kind of walk that you would do at lunchtime just to get some fresh air and you have plenty of time and are not running errands.
A steady walk
This is where the real work starts to begin. It’s when you go out to walk with a purpose or a time frame.
A brisk walk
This is ideal for you if you want to to lose a few pounds, get a bit of exercise, and enjoy some fresh air. When you go for a brisk walk you may start to feel a little breathless, but you should still be able to be in a conversation. To prevent injuries, make sure you stretch yourself before you start the walk.
Power walking has become quite popular these days. It is quite similar to a brisk walk, but just a little quicker. In this kind of walk, in which you need to use your arms to propel yourself too. This is a proper exercise routine.
Walking at home
The weather may not always support your walking routine. Apart from that, life may demand your attention and prevent you from going out.
In these cases walking at home is a good option.
You can set out time for yourself. Move a bit of furniture and make a space for yourself.
Use a portable phone or wireless headset and walk around the house as you carry on conversations.
You can carry on with your walking workout by climbing the stairs at home or work. Even short amounts of extra stair-climbing improve cardiovascular health.
There are many videos available on YouTube that teaches how to walk at home. One of the most popular is by Leslie Sansone. She has a great walking workout regime and each of them is suited for our workout requirements.
To support your walking regime, you need proper accessories.
Invest in a good pair of shoes
Before you take the first stride of your new walking workout, make sure you have the right walking shoes. Your shoes should be lightweight, but sturdy enough to provide a cushion for both the sole and heel of your foot.
The wrong type of shoe or walking action can cause foot or shin pain, blisters, and injuries to soft tissue.
Wearing a pedometer while walking
A pedometer measures the number of steps you take. You can use it to measure your movement throughout a day and compare it to other days or to recommended amounts. You need to walk 10,000 steps or more per day to achieve health benefits.
Fitness can be easily achieved through walking.
It is the most inexpensive way if becoming physically and mentally fit.
Make walking your new best friend and let the friendship help you create a better you!