Walking is the oldest, easiest and safest way to keep fit, writes Sumit Bhattacharjee
Of late, a number of exercise forms have come to the fore, keeping in mind the fitness mantra. Some pump weights to get the six packs, some try stuff like aerobics, tai chi and yoga. and a few go for more innovative types like krav magav and dancing. But, the oldest and the easiest way to keep fit, is walking. Walkers go by the old ‘apple’ saying, “Walk three miles to keep the doctor away”.
Many great men believed that walking is the best form of exercise. Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and a couple of American presidents like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Harry S. Truman were great walkers.
For walking, one does not need to have any hi-tech equipment or join a fancy place for a fee. One can start walking on the terrace, park or on the sidewalk and there is no necessity of a trainer or a company. The only gear that is required is a good pair of sports or jogging shoes. One should take care that the sole, especially the heel area which should be thick enough to give a cushioning effect. “The dropout rate for walking is comparatively low, compared to the other forms, and is open for all ages from 16 to 65 years,” says Dr. G. Prabhakar.
There are many good traits associated with walking. When done briskly on a regular basis, it improves the oxygen intake, lowers the blood pressure, increases the efficiency of the heart and the lungs and burns excess calories.
Walking is said to be injury free and has an effect on the psyche of the walker. People feel lighter, they sleep better and many tend to quit habitual addictions like smoking or drinking.
Rules of walking
The pace and distance play a vital role to make a walk look like a workout. The walk should be steady and brisk enough to make your heart beat faster. When it comes to workout, a walk does not mean a stroll or a saunter.
Here are some tips
Hold your head erect and keep your back straight. Land on your heel and take long and easy strides. Breathe deeply and swing yours arms in a rhythm. When walking up or down hills, or at a very rapid pace, lean forward slightly. At the end of the session, walk a few paces backwards to relax and stretch the leg muscles.
Walking generates a lot of body heat, so it is essential to have some protective clothing to retain the heat for some time. Immediately after a walk, get into a tracksuit to retain the heat.
One has to gradually increase the time and distance. Pace is not the key factor in walking. He or she can start with 20 minutes of brisk walking and slowly increase it to 45 minutes, to cover a distance of about four kilometres.
It is essential to warm-up with a few simple stretch exercises, a couple of stomach crunches, and sit-ups. Walking only at times might create a few problems for the back and the leg muscles. It is important to tone the other parts of the body at the same time. A warm-up will help a great deal in that aspect.
Listen to your body
If you develop some unusual symptoms like dizziness, pain or nausea, slow down or stop. If the problem persists, check with your doctor before walking again. Do not try to compete with other walkers. The objective is to keep fit and not try to win over the other walkers.