“Walking is an intrinsic part of my fitness regime. I strongly believe that walking is a great way to stay fit and encourage everyone to start walking since it is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get healthier.” Akshay Kumar, Bollywood Actor.
We religiously follow our Heroes so we have started to walk. But we do not know anything about the frequency, duration, speed, footwear, hydration rules or even benefits of walking.
We live (even die with) with many myths. Morning walk or walking for health is one of them. I see many morning (even evening and night) walkers, walking for pleasure and believe they are doing everything to keep them healthy. Yes, walking for pleasure is better than not doing anything and procrastinating on the bed or watching TV or making a plan for walking. But that is it.
- Basic – Cardiovascular Exercise:
First and foremost, the basic understanding. Cardiovascular Endurance is one of the 5 components of health. This endurance helps to enhance the ability of cardiovascular and respiratory systems to transport oxygenated blood to the skeleton muscles for an extended period of time without fatigue.
Some of the cardiovascular workouts are walking, running, bike riding, and swimming, rowing, and aerobic workouts.
The idea behind walking for health or for any cardiovascular exercise is challenging the heart. Your heart rate must increase. Muscles in our body are made to move and heart is made up of muscle. Proper cardiovascular exercise makes the heart muscles stronger and stronger heart muscles means more capillaries delivering more oxygen to cells in your muscles. This enables your cells to burn more fat during both exercises and even during the rest.
The speed at which you walk is important. Unless your walking speed is challenging your heart rate, it will not give the best of the benefits. Walking should cause moderate sweating. You should not find it easy to speak while doing the walking. This is the level at which you should reach by stepping up your speed.
The cardiovascular session, not including the warm-up and cool-down, should vary from 20-60 minutes to gain significant cardiorespiratory and fat burning benefits. Each time you do your cardiovascular exercise; try to do at least 20 minutes or more because fat burning starts after 20 minutes of cardio exercise. Our body relies more on carbohydrate and less on fat during the early stages of exercise and body uses more fat and less carbohydrate the longer you spend exercising.
Of course, the longer you go, the more calories and fat you’ll “burn” and the better you’ll condition your cardiovascular system.
But beginners should take a very conservative approach and train at relatively low intensities for 10-25 minutes. Gradually you can increase the duration of time you exercise.
The American College of Sports Medicine currently recommends that healthy adults participate in moderate aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or vigorous cardio exercise 20 minutes a day, three days per week.
I see many people walk with a slipper or even chappal or even with heeled office shoes. Your footwear determines your speed and possibility of injury to the knees.
A proper sports shoe is a must for walking for health and cardiovascular exercise. If you ignore this, there is a high possibility of a knee injury over the period of time. Secondly, you won’t be able to speed up your walk without proper footwear. That means a little benefit of walking and knee injury is a bonus.
Knee joint provides intense support to the lower body and weight distribution. The impact of improper weight distribution while knee joint is actively moving often results in knee joint subluxation or dislocation.
Especially when a heavy weight person starts walking, imagine what a huge injury, it can cause to his knees if he is not particular about his footwear. On one hand knees are already bearing a burden of his weight and on the other hand, improper footwear means an improper load of his weights on his knees.
Without the proper footwear, walk means no health benefit and detrimental to the knees’ health. You also need to take care of the terrain of the road or joggers track where you walk. An uneven and too hard surface can injure the knee and ankle joints.
Drinking water is very important while doing any kind of cardiovascular exercise. Before you start walking drink enough water, keep a water bottle and keep sipping some water during your walk and drink water again after your walk. This is very important as replenishment of water level, lost during the walk in the form of sweat, is necessary.
To summarise, following are the best practices of walking for health.
- Do a few stretches first, start slowly.
- Stand tall, with your shoulders back, head and neck aligned with your spine, and abs pulled in.
- Push off with the toes of your rear foot, and land squarely on the heel of your lead foot.
- Avoid over-striding. Increase the number of steps per minute to increase speed.
- Be weatherproof; wear suitable warm, light clothing in the winter and cool, comfortable clothes in the summer. Don’t forget your sunscreen if walking in the sun.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water before and after your walk. Take water with you on your walk, especially in warm weather.
- Cool down – make sure you cool down after a long fast walk. Do a few stretching exercises.
- Invest in good shoes. This is the only expense you’ll need. Shoe quality is very important. Strictly NO to Slippers, Chappals, Floaters or Sandals.
- Pay attention to your heart rate and breathing. Walk at a pace that challenges you and elevates your heart rate, but don’t overdo.
- Don’t walk immediately after a big meal.
Before I end, I wish to dispel one more myth. Cardiovascular exercises are only one of the many forms of exercise a person needs. Therefore, only walking is not sufficient for overall health. Everyone needs strength (Weights at the gym) training, functional (Yoga, different kinds of stretching etc) training and cardiovascular (Walk, aerobics, swimming, jogging etc.) Exercise for overall fitness.
Do you eat only one type of recipe or only one type of taste every day? No.
Likewise, make your exercise regime interesting by including every form of exercise for overall health benefits.
“Physical activity is one of the most important things Americans can do to improve their health, and walking is an easy way to get moving. Walking helps people stay both physically and mentally healthy……The journey to better health begins with a single step.” Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. 19th U.S. Surgeon General.
Yes, walking is essential for fitness, but the right way of walking is very vital.
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