There is a common misconception that walking is not an exercise. A lot of people believe that in order to be healthy and to lose weight, you need to do high impact exercise. Luckily, this is not the case. Infect walking is one of the easiest ways to exercise which is available to most of us all the time-and it’s absolutely free of cost!
Studies have shown that walking provides great overall cardiovascular fitness, Helps breathing, reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease, lowers cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, helps alleviate lower back pain, helps prevent and control diabetes, reduces the risk of arthritis and osteoporosis. Walking also improves your mental alertness and emotional well being as it alleviates stress and depression and it improves your immunity as well.
A recent study shows that walking at a moderate pace (3 mph) for up to 3 hours a week—or 30 minutes a day--can cut the risk of heart disease in women by as much as 40%. This is the same benefit you would get from aerobics, jogging, or other vigorous exercise. The benefits to men are comparable.A study published in the journal epidemiology last year also discovered that walking could help reduce the risk of breast cancer. The study found that women who took up exercise after menopause had reduced their chances of developing the disease by 30 %. Those women who had exercised throughout their lives had a 42% reduced risk.
Walking -- can be done by almost every body, anywhere and at any time, year around -- to the store, in the mall or in your neighborhood; alone, with your dog, or with others; and at your own pace. It is simple, uncomplicated -- physical fitness at your leisure. It's also relaxing and at the same time invigorating, requires little athletic skill, and does not call for club membership or special equipment other than sturdy, comfortable shoes. And it is fun and natural -- good for your mind and self-esteem.
Walking benefits most everybody, regardless of age. About 67 million men and women are walking regularly. Convinced that it is good exercise, they're making it a part of their daily routine.
Benefits of regular Walking
The fundamental health benefits of exercise walking are many. Metabolically, it helps control weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. A brisk walk can burn up to 100 calories per mile or 300 calories per hour. Walking is the perfect complement to a sensible diet to lose weight and keep it off.
Walking improves cardiovascular fitness. As an aerobic exercise, walking gets the heart beating faster to transport oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the muscles. The heart and lungs grow more efficient with a regular walking regimen, reducing blood pressure and the resting heart rate. Walking is even a central element of medical rehabilitation. A regular walking regimen facilitates recovery from many ailments, including heart attack.
Regular walking increases the HDL cholesterol level in blood, which is good for our health, & it also decreases IDL and total cholesterol level.
It is helpful for diabetics as it reduces the blood glucose level.
For people with poor circulation to the arms and legs, walking can increase the size and improve the efficiency of the tiny vessels that supply blood for cellular respiration. Anyone diagnosed with poor circulation should see a doctor before beginning exercise walking.
It increases the digestive power of stomach thus reduces the problems associated with indigestion and it also reduces constipation problem.
Psychologically, walking generates an overall feeling of well-being, and can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress by naturally producing endorphins, the body's natural tranquilizer. A brisk walk will relax you and stimulate your thinking.
Improve muscle strength and flexibility of your legs and abdomen. It strengthens the joints and ligaments
Additional benefits of walking include stimulating creativity and problem solving skills, as well as being used as a form of meditation. Walking gives you the opportunity to be outdoors in the fresh air and the chance to watch the seasons change. It is also the perfect way to get away from phones, pagers, faxes, e-mail, and other interruptions.
Before you start a walking program:
Before you start walking, some simple warm-up exercises are must as it prepares your body to get ready for further exercise. If one quits the warm ups before a walk they are calling for injuries to their important group of muscles, ligaments or tendons. It gives your muscles added flexibility, it increases breathing rates and blood circulation in the body
In winter, where the blood vessels and muscles are in relatively more contracted states, warm ups helps by releasing their contraction and making them more flexible.
How to do warm ups?
Body twists at the waist, and a few toe-touching or knee-bend exercises are appropriate. Push-ups, sit-ups are also advisable.
You should concentrate on stretching your torso, quadriceps, hamstring, gluteal muscles (buttocks), calves, and Achilles' tendon (heel). Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds each, repeating at least once for each muscle group and being careful not to bounce.
It takes not more than 5-10 minutes in total.
Choose the perfect shoes for you
The ideal walking shoe should be stable from side to side, and well cushioned, and it should enable you to walk smoothly. .
Most important, whether you are wearing a walking or running shoe, is that it must feel stable to you providing cushioning and stability
You should be able to wiggle your toes in the shoe, and there should be one half to a full thumb's width between the end of the longest toe on your longer foot and the end of the shoe's toe box. Make sure your ankles don't roll in the shoes.
Correct way of walking:
There are some guidelines you need to follow to make sure you do not injure yourself.
- Start slow and easy, at your own pace.
- Push off from your back foot.
- Walk heel to toe with a rolling motion of the foot.
- Keep arms close to body and bent at an almost 90 degree angle to your body.
- Concentrate on breathing evenly and swinging your arms naturally.
- Hold your head high, keep shoulders down and relaxed, chest should be out, and eyes looking straight ahead.
- Move at a steady pace, brisk enough to make your heart beat faster. Breathe more deeply.
- Remember to keep your leg muscles relaxed and avoid ‘locking’ your knees.
- Walk in three parts. Walk slowly for 5 minutes. Increase your speed for the next 5 minutes. Finally, to cool down, walk slowly again for 5 minutes.
- Its very much essential to do some stretching exercises (you can follow the same which you did in your warm ups) after a brisk walk. But this time give a prolong stretch to all muscles.
Plan out your Walking Program
It is important to design a program that will work for you. In planning your walking program, keep the following points in mind:
- Choose a safe place to walk. Find a partner or group of people to walk with you. Your walking partner(s) should be able to walk with you on the same schedule and at the same speed.
- Wear shoes with thick flexible soles that will cushion your feet and absorb shock.
- Wear clothes that are right for the season. Cotton clothes for the summer help to keep you cool by absorbing sweat and allowing it to evaporate. Layer your clothing in the winter, and as you warm up, you can take off some layers.
- Try to walk at least three times per week. Add 2 to 3 minutes per week to the fast walk. If you walk less than three times per week, increase the fast walk more slowly.
- To avoid stiff or sore muscles or joints, start gradually. Over several weeks, begin walking faster, going further, and walking for longer periods of time.
- The more you walk, the better you will feel.
Frequently asked questions about walking
What is a correct pace for me?
One of your physicians will help you determine your proper walking heart rate. Heart rate is widely accepted as a good method for measuring intensity during walking and other physical activities. The formula says that subtracting your age from the number 220 yields your maximum heart rate (beats per mine), and that the proper walking rate is 60-70 percent of that number. For a 50-year-old, that's 220 minus 50 equals 170; 60 percent of that is 102 and 70 percent are 119. Other factors should be considered, though; a physician's advice is the best indicator of your correct rate.
Do I need a check up?
Answer the following questions before you begin a walking program:
- Has your doctor ever told you that you have heart trouble?
- When you exercise, do you have pains in your chest or on your left side (neck, shoulder or arm)?
- Do you often feel faint or have dizzy spells?
- Do you feel extremely breathless after mild activity?
- Has your doctor told you that you have high blood pressure?
- Has your doctor told you that you have bone or joint problems, like arthritis, that could get worse if you exercise?
- Are you over 50 years old and not use to a lot of exercise?
- Do you have a condition or physical reason not mentioned here that might interfere with an exercise program?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, please check with your doctor before starting a walking program or other form of exercise.
During my working hour I almost walk for 1-2 hours. Do you think I still need walking?
Yes, you still need walking to get above-mentioned benefits. During your work hours your mind is completely busy your mind and body is stressed out and not relaxed. What you need is complete empty and relaxed mind for walking.
Which time is suitable for walking?
You can walk in the morning or at evening or night. All have same advantage. Many people like celebrities; businessman prefers to walk at evening time.
How much walking do you need to do?
A study recommends 30 minutes of walking on most, if not all, days of the week.
What about people who have limited time?
If you don't have a solid block of time, break your walking into smaller chunks. For example, instead of walking 30 minutes, you can also divide your daily amount into three 10-minute sessions
Studies have shown that this is as beneficial as walking for 1/2 hour at one time.
So this is about all queries that people have in their mind. There is one more fascinating aspect about walking that is to do meditation while you are walking.
Isn’t it interesting to meditate while you go for a walk? Let’s see how it can be done.
MEDITATION WHILE WALKING
Here what we mean by meditation is the sense of focusing on concentration of attention that is to be able to bring our thoughts at a center point, which is an object of focus. Our motion as we walk makes us completely involved into the activity bringing the mind & the body on one ground or one level since the mind begins to focus with a 100% on a physical activity. Thus a conscious attempt to bridge that gap between the mind & the body!
You are putting your 100% in an activity and getting double benefit.
To begin with, before you stat walking one must take a deep breath and slowly breath out and have a feeling of “let go”. Repeat this a few times till you feel relaxed.
Become aware of the sounds around you not just here them with your ears but completely feel them. Then become aware of your foot, the movement of foot step by step. Begin with the right foot lifting it from the ground, pushing the leg backward then dropping it again on the ground & forwards. Repeat it slowly for the left leg. Your mind must follow the whole process of the movement of the foot very attentively and closely. At the same time observe the sensation it produces in your body. Your concentration wont be broken since the mind will stay with the foot you should be careful to
control your eyes. You must not look at the foot.
Any tension felt in the neck or back can be attributed because of an effort to bend at look at your legs.
So you have to keep your eyes looking at a space about 5-6 feet ahead of you. During walking meditation if your mind divert and think of daily routine, schedule to begin with one must not try & forget it or not push it aside-because those extra thoughts since are like guests not there to stay for every, they eventually go so just observe the thoughts as they come and go. Be in the process of observation too. After the thoughts have disappeared you return to the primary object of noting – be aware of the movement of the foot and the step, right and then left lifting, dropping & then pushing forward and dropping.
Walking like you are in meditation is the best form of walking. This increases your concentration power; slowly & gradually you become aware of your body, your sensations arising from the foot as well as the other part of the body gradually the mind focuses more and more and wonders less and less.
You will be aware of all the movements of your foot so that you can realize them in their true nature-thus being aware of you, as you are your true self!
An individual is so stressed in daily life with his thoughts tormenting him, walking in meditation gives him space to be with himself.
What more can you ask for? Get out there and start walking!