Walking, according to research, is good for health.
Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health.
Just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance.
Unlike some other forms of exercise, walking is free and does not require any special equipment or training.
Physical activity does not have to be vigorous or done for long periods in order to improve health.
Walking is low impact, requires minimal equipment, can be done at any time of day, and can be performed at one’s own pace. You can get out and walk without worrying about the risks associated with some more vigorous forms of exercise.
Walking for fun and fitness is not limited to strolling alone around local neighborhood streets. There are various clubs, venues, and strategies that can be used to make walking an enjoyable and social part of the lifestyle.
Tips on Walking Exercise:
- Walking for 30 minutes a day or more on most days of the week is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health.
- If you can’t manage 30 minutes a day, remember even short walks more frequently can be beneficial.
- Walking with others can turn exercise into an enjoyable social occasion.
- See your doctor for a medical check-up before embarking on a higher-intensity new fitness program, particularly if you are aged over 40 years, overweight or have not exercised in a long time.
Health benefits of walking:
You carry your own body weight when you walk. This is known as weight-bearing exercise. Some of the benefits include:
- Increase in cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
- Reduction in risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Improvement in the management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes.
- Stronger bones and improved balance.
- Increase in muscle strength and endurance.
- Reduction of body fat.
Build physical activity into your life:
If it’s too difficult to walk for 30 minutes at one time, do regular small bouts (10 minutes) 3 times per day and gradually build up to longer sessions.
If your goal is to lose weight, you will need to do physical activity for longer than 30 minutes each day. You can achieve this by starting with smaller bouts of activity throughout the day and increasing these as your fitness improves.
The physical activity built into a daily lifestyle plan is also one of the most effective ways to assist with weight loss and keep weight off once it is lost.
Some suggestions to build walking into your daily routine include:
- Take the stairs instead of the lift (for at least part of the way).
- Get off public transport one stop earlier and walk to work or home.
- Walk (do not drive) to the local shops.
- Walk the dog (or your neighbor’s dog).
Make walking part of your routine:
Try to make walking a routine – for example, try to walk at the same time each day.
Remember, you use the same amount of energy no matter what time of day you walk, so do what is most convenient for you.
You may find that asking someone to walk with you will help make it a regular activity. Some people find that keeping an activity diary or log also makes it easier.
Wear a pedometer while walking:
A pedometer measures the number of steps you take.
You can measure your movement throughout the day and compare it to other days or recommended amounts. This may motivate you to move more.
The recommended number of steps accumulated per day to achieve health benefits is 10,000 steps or more.
A comfortable intensity for walking:
For most people, there is little difference in the amount of energy used by walking a kilometer or running a kilometer – it’s just that walking takes longer.
Plan to cover a set distance each day and monitor how long it takes you to walk this distance. As your fitness improves, you will be able to walk a longer distance and use more energy.
Walking fast burns more kilojoules per hour than walking slowly, but this does not mean you have to push yourself until you’re breathless. Instead, pace yourself so that you can still talk. This simple rule of thumb means that you walk safely within your target heart rate, which brings about health gains.
Our bodies tend to get used to physical activity, so continue to increase your intensity as you improve your fitness levels. You can increase the intensity of your walks by:
- walking up hills
- walking with hand weights
- increasing your walking speed gradually by including some quick walking
- increasing the distance you walk quickly before returning to a moderate walking pace
- walking for longer.
Warm-up and cool down after walking:
The best way to warm up is to walk slowly. Start each walk at a leisurely pace to give your muscles time to warm up, and then pick up the speed.
Afterward, gently stretch your leg muscles – particularly your calves and front and back thighs. Stretches should be held for about 20 seconds.
If you feel any pain, ease off the stretch. Do not bounce or jolt, or you could overstretch muscle tissue and cause microscopic tears, which lead to muscle stiffness and tenderness.
It is best to dress lightly when you do physical activity. Too many layers can increase sweating and build up body temperature making you uncomfortable during a walk or possibly causing skin irritations.
A gradual cool-down will also prevent muscular stiffness and injury.
Footwear for walking:
Make sure your shoes are comfortable, with appropriate heel and arch supports. Take light, easy steps, and make sure your heel touches down before your toes.
Whenever possible, walk on grass rather than concrete to help absorb the impact.
Make walking a pleasure:
Some suggestions to help make regular walking a pleasurable form of physical activity include:
- varying where you walk
- walking the dog
- walking with friends
- joining a walking club.
Make walking interesting:
Ways to keep your daily walk interesting include:
- If you want to stick close to home and limit your walking to neighborhood streets, pick different routes so you don’t get tired of seeing the same sights.
- If you feel unsafe walking alone, find one or more friends or family members to walk with.
- Walk at various times of the day. The sights to see first thing in the morning are bound to differ from those of the afternoon or early evening.
- Drive to other reserves, park the car, and enjoy the views while walking.
- Explore what’s happening around you; notice the sky, the people, the sounds.
A dog that needs regular exercise motivates you to walk every day. You might like the companionship too. If you do not have a dog and are not planning on getting one, consider offering to walk a neighbor’s dog occasionally.
Suggestions for the safety of your dog and other people on foot include:
- Be considerate of other pedestrians and always keep your dog on its leash.
- If you plan to walk in a park, check first to see if dogs are permitted. Many national and state parks and other conservation reserves do not permit dogs.
- Other parks generally permit dogs to walk on a leash. Many parks allow dogs off the leash – check with your local council.
- Always take equipment such as plastic bags and gloves to clean up after your dog.
Walk with others:
Walking with other people can turn a bout of exercise into an enjoyable social occasion. Suggestions include:
- Schedule a regular family walk – this is a great way to pass on healthy habits to your children or grandchildren and to spend time together while getting fit at the same time.
- If you are walking with children, ensure the route and length of time spent walking are appropriate to ensure the route and length of time spent walking are appropriate for their age.
- Babies and toddlers enjoy long walks in the pram. Take the opportunity to point out items of interest to young ones, such as vehicles, flowers, and other pedestrians.
- Look for the self-guided nature walks that have been set up in many parks. Younger children enjoy looking for the next numbered post; older ones can learn about the plants and animals of the park, and perhaps take photos or record their experience in other ways.
Final Suggestions Safe walking
Walking is generally a safe way to exercise, but look out for unexpected hazards. Suggestions include:
- See your doctor for a medical check-up before starting a new fitness program, particularly if you are aged over 40 years, are overweight, or have not exercised in a long time.
- Ensure you read through the pre-exercise self-screening tool.
- Choose walks that suit your age and fitness level. Warm-up and cool down with a slow, gentle walk to ease in and out of your exercise session.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and appropriate footwear to avoid blisters and shin splints.
- Wear sunglasses, sunscreen, long sleeves, and a hat to avoid sunburn.
- Take waterproof clothing to avoid getting wet if it rains.
- Before bushwalking, check the weather forecast and take appropriate safety measures (for example, pack the correct clothing).
- Look for hazards in alpine or coastal areas, such as cliff edges or large waves.
- Drink plenty of fluids before and after your walk: If you are taking a long walk, take water with you.
Better Health Channel/ Taiwo Akinola