WALKING is advocated by all to regain and retain a fit body, writes KAMALA THIAGARAJAN
Walking is the most flexible and uncomplicated of all exercise routines, and it can even easily fit into most demanding lifestyles.
Research reveals that walking promotes healthy lungs, increases blood circulation and even has the power to deter ailments such as high blood pressure, heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, glaucoma, osteoporosis, gallstones, and cancer.
Walking is the only cardiovascular activity that will not overtly strain the heart, while providing the stimulus required to getting it pumping in order to flush out extra fat. It helps you enjoy better sleep and boosts your memory too. It is also beneficial for people who suffer from back problems and cannot do aerobics, cycling, or other strenuous activities, to shed extra kilos.
Put simply, walking is the most ideal way to get back to shape, regardless of age or fitness levels.
Medical researchers at the University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, have proved that regular, moderate physical activity, such as walking an hour every day, adds an average of 1.3 years to our lives. It's also established that walking battles depression and assists in elevating one's mood, resulting in mental and spiritual benefits as well.
Walking, even for 30 minutes a day, five hours a week, reaps long-term health benefits. However, if the intention is to drastically lose weight, then a more focused approach is needed.
Perfect your technique
Walking is no longer considered a vague activity with no specific rules. Today, fitness experts worldwide have researched exactly how much and how long one should walk to achieve optimal fitness goals. An hour of concentrated walking [either outdoors, or on your treadmill] accounts for 6,000 steps for an average person. But, this can vary, depending on factors such as age, height, gait, length of the stride and fitness levels
In a study published in Sports Medicine, people who clocked 10,000 steps during the course of the day [two hours of walking] were considered to be “active.” This eventually leads to gradual weight loss, every month.
For any exercise to be effective, it needs to be high impact. You need to get your heart-rate pumping, so your breathing quickens and you start to build up sweat. A rule of the thumb is to ensure you are slightly out-of-breath, but can still comfortably carry on conversation.
As you walk, the heel of your foot should come into contact with the ground first. Allow your foot to roll smoothly over the surface, propelling you forwards in quick steps. If you must lengthen your stride, do so when your feet move behind you; not when you place them in front of you. This will give your work-out a great deal of power and speed.
For power walking, shorter, quicker steps are ideal. Bangalore-based fitness expert Ramesh Chinay says, "Try imagining that you are late for an important meeting. You should walk fast enough in order to be out-of-breath by the time you finish, but not so much that you gasp, or pant alarmingly."
Aerobics instructor and walking enthusiast, Kokila Ramani explains: "When the ball of your foot [the rounded portion, close to the heel] touches the ground first, it can support the weight of your body better than your toes, or instep. This ensures that you do not tire easily."
Walker's requirements are minimal. One needs to invest in a good pair of shoes - preferably double padded soles to cushion the impact of the feet jarring on gravel. This is very important in order to avoid knee problems, especially if one plans to walk long distance.
The wardrobe also needs a revamp and should include loose-fitting, cotton clothing that allows the body to "breathe." Some serious walkers may consider investing in a good pedometer - a small device that counts footsteps. When tucked away under the belt, it is unobtrusive. It is important to maintain a record of walk-to-fitness achievements.
It pays to be vigilant. Schedule your walks in the daytime, when there is plenty of light. Never walk after dark, especially in a neighbourhood you are not familiar with. Do not carry your purse/wallet or valuables with you. Pocket only a minimal amount of cash for emergencies.
Ensure a stress-free atmosphere. Do not walk in public places or on noisy streets, where you can be easily jostled around. Find a well-lit park or walking track that is far from the crowd.
Build up a walking log. After every session, record the distance covered, the time taken and the different walker-friendly routes. At the end of the year, add the total number of hours spent walking and see if it has translated into significant weight loss, or toning of the physique.
After an hour of walking, your body is most prone to building muscle. Eating a high-protein snack at this point is most beneficial for muscle growth and development. You could opt for a handful of nuts, grilled fish, cooked chana dal, low-fat paneer, soy or whole wheat, grilled vegetable sandwich.
Time for reflection and solitude. As you walk, clear your mind of unnecessary clutter. Take delight in thoughts that make you happy and be at peace with yourself. Most importantly, allow the rhythm of your gait to relax and calm you.
You may have to wait a while to see the actual results. But, when you do see a change, it will be long lasting. For, every step walked takes you closer to a sound body in a sound mind.