Biologically, exercise and walking should be a part of our daily routine. But owing to the increasing dependence on technology and with the changing nature of our daily lifestyle, we have started using assistance for the simplest of activities in our daily life. In the medieval period, people were involved in activities like hunting, soldiering, animal husbandry, and weaving which provided enough mobility to their joints and helped them keep themselves fit and healthy. But with increasing white collar jobs, technology driven lifestyle and dependence on help for activities such as washing and cooking, we are making our bodies weak and unfit. Walking is an exercise in which you don’t have to go the gym or use expensive equipments. It is the best mode of local transportation without harmful emissions. Further, walking acts as a tranquilizer without drugs. I can be the best psychotherapy without the need of a couch and an inexpensive mode of rejuvenation. Walking is a kind of moving meditation and a great stimulant to the mental activity that is accessible to all ages and economic groups. Most importantly, walking is a symphony of body movement which has a phenomenal impact on the mind and soul. Walking perhaps is the best mode of spending time with friends, children and family, which is otherwise not possible in today’s hectic life schedule. Walking can be done anywhere anytime, both alone and with a companion. This easy exercise aids in weight loss, strengthening of bones, and also lessens the degree of severity of osteoporosis (the disease of bone-thinning that commonly occurs in older, inactive people). Since walking imparts very less strain to the lower back, hips, knees, ankles and feet, it is more grounded and balanced as compared to others forms of physical exercise and henceforth more safe for all ages. Walking has many benefits associated with it. The most important of all is that it’s the easiest form of exercise to stay fit. Walking helps in burning calories. Walking around helps a person gets exposed to the beautiful natural surroundings and take a relaxing break from the routine activities. It is the only natural physical activity to mobilize your joints. Pipe in an audio while taking a walk and relax yourself. Unlike other forms of exercise, you don’t need special equipments or a special corner, you can fit it into your day by changing few habits like walking your dog or walking down to a canteen rather than eating at your desk. Walk around while chatting on phone or gossiping with a friend. The health benefits of walking are just plentiful. Walking is a bench mark of a low-intensity workout. Walking would first burn your calories and then burn off the fat. If you want to lose a few pounds and build up lean muscle mass, then walking is a better option as compared to jogging or aerobic exercise. Walking burns off around 5 to 8 percent of percent of protein, 70 percent of carbohydrates and 15 percent of fat. Besides feeling and looking great, we wish and deserve to have a sound mental health, physical strength and a long life.
Walking for 30 to 60 minutes daily can:
Cut down your risk of heart disease by 30 to 40 percent, breast cancer by 20 percent and stroke by 50 percent;
- Stabilize your blood pressure;
- Increase cardiovascular endurance;
- Reduce depression and anxiety;
- Help in weight loss by burning excess calories;
- Tone up lean muscles involved in walking;
- Increase lung capacity;
- Boost metabolism and reduce effects of constipation;
- Increase energy level; and
- Reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides content of the blood.
If walking is combined with healthy eating, walking helps in weight loss. Walking twice a day daily for a month is very effective. The benefits of walking include preventing many diseases and health conditions. Here are a few of examples: Walking in addition to the planned diet and prescribed drugs is the best treatment for diabetics. Together they form a complete package for dealing with diabetes and preventing its complications. Walking for fitness lowers risk of stroke. Brisk walking for an hour a day cuts the risk of stroke by half, according to a Harvard study on more than 11,000 men. Walking also boosts “good” cholesterol” and helps reduce “bad” cholesterol. Bad cholesterol causes plaque build up in the artery walls, one of the major causes of heart attacks. Walking in the form of jogging improves aerobic fitness and strengthens the heart. It helps heart in pumping more blood with less effort and with less pressure on the arteries. A regular walk schedule can strengthen your immune system and help fight infections and diseases. Walking relieves sleep apnea and insomnia. Regular walking regimen helps reduce risk of hip fracture by strengthening the hip and pelvic muscles. Walking improves fitness of mind and helps relieve depression and anxiety by elevating our mood, sense of well-being and self-esteem. Walking imparts flexibility to the joints and thus reduces the effects of osteoarthritis. Walking helps reduce risk of breast cancer and colon cancer. Now that we realize the unbeatable health benefits of walking, let’s realistically visualize how we can incorporate walking into our life. For acquiring the taste of walking, we must decide why we need to walk. Schedule a time for walking on a regular basis. Identify a favorite and comfortable place to walk. Walking and music is a great combination. It can actually take us from a highly tense state to a relaxed state of mind. If you cannot walk to work, why not park your car a little further than usual and walk down the remaining distance to your work. Walk your dog daily. It’s good for you as well as your pet. Take a stroll outside in your office campus post lunch or post tea. Spend your Sundays either going to a park, or going out for a shopping or else fix up a sports match with your friends. But you need to take safeguard yourself while walking as a daily routine. You need to protect yourself from:
- Being hit by a vehicle;
- Being assaulted by a lunatic, robber, or rapist; and
- Being attacked or bitten by a dog, insect or snake.
- Therefore you need to be cautious to deter attacks while walking. Following are some precautions you can take-
- Try not to go out at night or very early in the morning on a lonely lane.
- Don’t go out in poorly lighted or deserted areas.
- Walk on footpaths or in parks and be careful of the traffic.
- Don’t walk near dark doorways.
- Do not wear any expensive jewelry or accessories.
- Do not wear dual headphones-you need to be aware of your surroundings.
- Keep a cell phone. Call the police if someone is following you.
- Keep protective devices such as pepper spray. They come in handy when warding off an attacker.
- Always carry at least one ID-card.
Walking is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to maintain your physical fitness. Before starting a vigorous walking program, consult a doctor for any chronic medical condition or for necessary precautions if you have had a recent injury. Be conscious of your heart rate and breathing. Walk at a pace that elevates your heart rate to a tolerable limit. Walking as we know is the simplest form of physical activity. But little do we realize that incorrect walking posture and pattern stands to be the biggest cause of pains and aches in the lower limb and back. Again, if we take up walking without giving a thought to appropriate clothing and without realizing the need for regular hydration, we actually land up in trouble sooner or later.
- Wear comfortable shoes and loose clothing.
- Dress according to the weather conditions.
- Wear lightweight, properly fitting shoes with good cushioning in the heel to minimize pressure on the foot joints.
- Specifications for walking shoes:
- Sole of the shoe should be flexible enough to bend and twist the toe area.
- Shoes should be made of mesh fabrics rather then of leather while going for early morning or evening routine walk as such shoes are lighter.
- Avoid cotton socks, wear synthetic socks made of polypropylene instead, as they don’t compress, dry quickly, prevent blisters, and pad the heel.
Do’s and don’ts of walking:
Be careful of straining the calf muscles as well as muscles at the front and the back of the thighs. Ten minutes of warm -up exercise and 10 minutes of cool-down exercise helps in maintaining homoeostasis in the muscles.
Try and walk on a flat surface to reduce the strain on legs and feet.
While walking, keep the body erect, head up, eyes looking straight ahead, and shoulders down, buttocks tucked in and arms at the waist level. Try not to swing the hips from side to side as you walk. Each foot should land under the torso, almost flat and toward the heel-short, heel-toe stride is recommended for walking.
Drink a glass of water every hour throughout the day to stay hydrated. Ten minutes before your walk, drink a glass of water.
During your walk drink a cup or more of water every 20 minutes. After you finish, drink a glass or two of water.
Avoid taking caffeinated beverages immediately before going on walk. Caffeine act as diuretics causing loss of fluids, making you feel thirsty.
For walks extending over 2 hours, replenish your body with electrolyte – replacement sports drink whenever you feel thirsty.
Initiate your walk with a warm-up and simple stretching.
Step 1 : Warm-up
Initially walk at a slow pace for 5-10 minutes signals your muscles.
Step 2 : Stretch
Stretching is the key to warm up your muscles and relieve soreness. Face the wall at a distance of arms “length. Place your palms flat against the wall slightly below your shoulder height. Keep your back straight and firm your heels on the floor. Now slowly bend your elbows until your forehead touches the wall. Hold this position for 20 seconds and relax. Repeat this exercise 10 times. Stand erect with feet apart and arm over head.
Try to reach as high as possible while keeping heels on floor and hold this position for 10 seconds and relax. Flex your knees slightly and bend your trunk slowly at the waist, trying to touch the floor or actually touching the floor. Hold for 10 seconds and relax. (This exercise is not recommended for patients with back problems or thromboembolism).
Professor of Orthopedics
GMC Hospital, Ajman – UAE