The world is currently facing an epidemic of rising rates of non-communicable diseases corresponding to declining rates of physical activity. We all have become slaves of our sedentary lifestyles and bad eating habits.
Doctors and physicians are recommending physical exercise more than ever, and we are getting bad at following this advice. The reason most people don’t take up regular exercise is that it takes a lot of effort and hard work.
But we can all easily get started with walking.
Walking is the least expensive and highly accessible form of physical activity.
It is rarely associated with physical injury. It can be easily adopted by people of all ages including those who have never participated in any kind of physical activity.
Studies have shown that walking has higher levels of adherence than other forms of physical activity. This can be due to the absence of barriers in this activity like a lack of fitness, skill or time.
Walking is a popular physical activity for many people across the globe. More than 145 million adults choose to walk to reach their physical activity goals.
Why You Should Consider Walking Regularly?
There are many reasons why walking rates need to be increased among diverse populations. One among them being able to lower the risks and rates of non-communicable diseases.
Walking takes less effort to start but has a high impact on health benefits. It helps reduce the risks of many lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure, stress, back-pains, etc.
How much should you walk?
The American heart association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity once a week.
That breaks down to at least 30 mins per day, five times a week.
Walking is a great physical activity and you can start with 30 minutes a day. Although the WHO recommends 10,000 steps in a day, it would be too much to aim for when starting out. But a 30 minutes walk is doable and also impacts the health positively.
Normal Walk Vs Brisk Walk
Know that any activity is better than no activity.
However, the movement that raises the heart levels and challenges the muscles is the one giving most benefits. So if you can manage 30 minutes of brisk walking every day, nothing beats it. But if that looks hard, to begin with, start with normal walking and pace it up as you go.
Every one minute of brisk walking is roughly worth 2 mins of normal walking.
When you’re brisk walking, your hearts beat faster but we are still able to carry on a conversation but not sing. However, breathing will be heavier and one will start to sweat.
Pedometers are increasingly becoming popular as a means of measuring physical activity in terms of steps taken.
For walking, 100 steps per minute are recommended. This will amount to 3000 steps per half an hour. (American journal of preventive medicine 2009)
Pedometer-based interventions lead to an increase in 2000-2500 steps.
Researchers have also established pedometer-determined physical activity level thresholds for adults categorized by their activity level ( Pedometer indices for public health, sports med 2004)
- Less than 2500 steps/day- Sedentary
- 2500 steps-4999 steps/day- Limited Activity
- 5000 steps-7499 steps/day- Low Active
- 7500 steps-9999 steps/day- Somewhat Active
- 10,000 steps- 12,499 steps/day- Active
- More than 12500 steps/day- Highly Active
One more interesting thing is that walking one km for 20 mins burns the same number of calories as running one km in 10 mins!
Benefits of Walking 30 Mins a Day
Just by taking 30 minutes out of your schedule every day for walking, you can improve your health drastically. Walking is one of the best exercises that is recommended for all age groups.
Here are some amazing benefits you’ll see when you start walking 30 minutes a day.
Walking helps control blood sugar
Walking effectively controls fasting blood sugar and post-walk sugar levels.
It reduces the risk of developing diabetes. All the negative effects are controlled by walking. It improves fitness ( heart and respiratory system) in adults with diabetes.
Walking reduces risks of heart disease
Walking effectively reduces the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It also lowers coronary heart disease risk and reduces blood pressure.
It increases the body?s capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise.
It also increases muscle endurance and good cholesterol (HDL) in the body.
Walking helps prevent Cancer
Physical activity has notable benefits in preventing cancer, notably breast cancer and colon cancer.
Walking also benefits people living with and beyond cancer with positive effects on fatigue levels, body strength, and anxiety.
Walking improves chronic diseases and back pain
Studies have examined the impact of walking on chronic diseases like chronic lung disease, arthritis, and lower back pain.
Results showed people with chronic pulmonary lung disease who undertake more walking halve their risk of being admitted as an emergency admission.
People who have arthritis and walked showed good aerobic capacity and reduction in arthritic pain.
Moderate evidence showed walking as an effective treatment for lower back pain.
?Walking Improves mental health
Walking has been shown to improve mental health and reduce stress. It leads to?better sleep, a sense of psychological well being.
It also relieves symptoms of Depression and ?Anxiety. People who walk regularly are likely to have more energy and less stress.
A study of 120 previously sedentary older adults found that after a year of moderate intensity walking, the memory area in the brain had grown by 2 percent (source: Alzheimer’s Association international conference 2012, Erikson)
Walking also releases feel-good hormones (endorphins) which makes one feel happy.
?It keeps the city clear of transport pollutants
Walking is good for the environment. While you may not be able to walk long distances, for short trips to a nearby shop or supermarket, walking can help reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
And these small steps also lead to a more active lifestyle that will also help you lose weight.
Walking Improves Our Immune System
Walking strengthens our immune system by encouraging the body to release white blood cells.
One of the reasons why people who regularly walk have low chances of catching a cold or flu
Below are some more reasons why walking 30 minutes a day is something you should really consider.
- It helps reduce glaucoma risk and helps in vision. It helps relieve fluid pressure that it built up. It provides a good amount of oxygen to the cells
- Walking helps prevent osteoporosis and helps build stronger bones. Walking in sunlight encourages our body to produce it D3 which helps absorb calcium. It also tones up muscles and helps improve body balance.it also prevents the drying up of fluids from our joints.
- It aids in digestion by secreting digestive juices which aid in digestion and help prevent constipation.
Some ideas to help you get started with walking
If you’ve been putting off walking as little as 30 minutes a day, here are some pointers to help you get started (and a few words of advice):
- Walk in the middle of the day in winters and early morning and late evenings in summers.
- Create short walks according to your schedule. Park your vehicle some distance away, get off the bus one stop earlier, use stairs instead of escalators.
- For errands close to your home, ditch the vehicle and walk if possible.
- Get yourself a good pair of walking or running shoes. This will make sure your feet are comfortable when walking.
- When you visit a new city/country, take a walking tour.
- Create walking groups. It will keep you motivated and socially active. It also helps maintain the discipline of sticking to walking.
- If you have a dog, go for a walk with it.
- If you spend most of your time in office, find every opportunity you can get and take a walk. Maybe go to the farther water cooler or take your calls when walking
- Walk while catching up with a friend on your mobile
- Always take time to warm up and cool down before and after walking. Do this by walking slowly for 5-10 mins from the beginning and at the end. Stretching after warm up and stretching to cool down can be helpful.
- Some of the stretching exercises are wall push, toe touch, palm touch etc. It is important for each person to choose stretches that are safe and appropriate for any existing health concerns.
- If one is listening to music with headphones/earphones, it is a good idea to keep the volume low so that traffic can be heard and also fellow pedestrians, bikers etc.
- Try to avoid walking in the early afternoon from noon to 3 pm where the sun is the hottest.
- Drink water before, during and after the walk. If possible carry a bottle or use routes where drinking water facility is available.
- Wear clothes that have moisture wicking fabric for comfort.
- Finally, listen to your body. Take frequent breaks in the shade.
- If you’re in Delhi/NCR, avoid a lot of walking during the winter season due to high air pollution. But you can always make up for it by walking at home (or doing some light exercise such as cycling)
A word of caution!
While walking please be alert as soon as you feel the following symptoms: Faint, dizzy, nauseous, headache, chills, weak or rapid pulse, muscle cramps, cold moist skin or excessive sweating, confusion or unconsciousness.
Stop walking right away. Drink water, move to shade and ask for help.
And lastly, don’t forget to apply sunscreen. It is a good idea to purchase a water-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 15. Use a good hat for protection in summers.
After coming back from outdoors, sit for a while and then shower and change to avoid any pests which may have been attracted by your clothes, body odor etc.
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