Taking tiny steps, you learned to walk ahead in life. You did it with no training or equipment. You’ve been doing it for this long, so why walk any more than necessary? Although your body naturally adapts to changing foods and environment, it needs a boost to stay absolutely healthy. What you need is constant exercise and a walk is the best way to start.
If you can’t do intense workouts, if you’re just starting on the fitness path, or if you’re recovering from some injury, just take a walk. By walk, we don’t mean a nice casual stroll, not always at least. To keep your body fit, you need to walk briskly and work your body completely. And here’s what you’ll garner by doing this every day:
1. Shed The Extra Pounds
Losing weight doesn’t necessarily mean having to do heavy exercises or going to the gym. Wake up early and walk briskly nonstop for at least 30 mins every day. The longer you walk with an increasing pace, the more calories you lose. Combine this with a healthy diet and you’ll soon find your clothes not really stretching as much as they used to! And with weight loss comes a super-toned body after working those muscles as best as possible.
2. Treat Diabetes
Weight loss and diabetes go hand in hand as losing weight reduces the risk of diabetes and increases the effectiveness of the treatment. Walking not only helps with this but also increases insulin sensitivity, especially in obese individuals with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.3 It impacts the glucose levels after meals in patients with type 1 diabetics and is also commonly used as a low-intensity workout plan to lower blood glucose in type 2 diabetes patients.4 5
3. Regulate Blood Pressure
The longer you walk, the more you increase your lifespan and keep illnesses at bay. A regular walking routine lowers blood pressure and reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, and is hence, very useful in treating hypertension.6 7 Walking is also frequently followed exercise for post-menopausal women who suffer from hypertension.
4. Strengthen Your Heart
Weight gain, diabetes, and blood pressure; all of these increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Walking treats all these conditions and thus keeps your heart strong, healthy, and disease-free.8 Especially in elderly, those who walk less than half a mile a day are at a two-fold higher risk of suffering from coronary heart disease than those who walk more than 1.5 miles a day. The duration and distance have a direct correlation to the risk of cardiac diseases.9
5. Prevent Dementia
As you age, your brain witnesses a reduction in gray matter, leading to cognitive conditions such as dementia. Illnesses like dementia reduce the quality of life not only for the patient but also for those caring for them. So before the situation worsens, get the patient to start walking. Increased physical activity increases the gray matter, treats cognitive impairments, and even improves cognitive function.10
6. Treat Osteoporosis And Osteoarthritis
Aging affects every single part of us, one of the worst being the bones. When walking itself might be painful, doing high-intensity exercises can lead to cartilage degeneration, even more so in those already at a risk of osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. So take it easy and walk. Do it every day, even if you can only do it slowly and for short distances – to keep your knees strong and healthy without overexerting them.11 If you’re osteoarthritic, walking barefoot might help reduce the load on the joints.12 However, always discuss it with your doctor before opting to do so.
7. Manage The Side Effects Of Cancer Therapy
Whether you’re going through cancer therapy or have already done so, you’re bound to notice a significant reduction in your stamina levels. For cancer patients and survivors, walking is usually the first step toward restoring the body’s overall fitness. Just be sure to start slow and adjust your walking time and pace in small increments so as not to tire yourself. Be persistent and you’ll gradually see your stamina coming back. Walking also helps deal with the symptoms of radiation therapy and improves your physical strength.13
8. Prep Your Body For Intense Exercises
Planning to get into the fitness route for the first time in life? Fast-paced or high-intensity exercises will tire you quickly. Instead, try starting with a manageable brisk walk and then gradually increasing your pace. Your body will soon stop complaining about all the extra work.14
9. Boost Creativity
Staring at your laptop screen blankly and just can’t seem to get your brain going? Walking will wake up your mind. According to research, walking stimulates your creativity twice as much as sitting would. The surrounding environment doesn’t really matter; just the act of walking itself does plenty to enhance your thought process. So take a quick stroll around your workspace or get some fresh air for a few minutes; you’ll be surprised to see how well you perform at that brainstorming session!15
10. Speed Up Recovery
Walking is your best bet if you’re recovering from joint issues, lower back pain, or any form of injury. Brisk walking is a moderate-intensity exercise that increases heart rate and stimulates blood circulation. Keep in mind that your walk is meant to be therapeutic and not cause you further damage. Therefore, be mindful of your pace and your body’s pain points – and go slower or faster accordingly.
11. Clear The Mind And Reduce Stress
When stressed, staying put indoors without any fresh air or nothing else to think about can make you more tensed. In such a situation, you could either choose to take a stroll and focus on the things around you or go for a brisk walk and concentrate on your body. Distracting yourself is the best way to clear your mind and steer yourself away from stressors. If you can find a garden or a park, walk on the grass. This can have almost a massage-like feel and de-stress your mind.
As you get used to walking, you can even learn to meditate while walking to calm your mind. You do this by seeing things around you but not reacting and just being aware of each of your body parts and your mind.
12. Get A New Perspective
Every now and then, walk and take a look at your surroundings – the people and the places. Looking at other people’s lives will give you a new perspective on your own situation. Focusing on something other than yourself can be a good reality check.
13. Cut The Nicotine Cravings
One of the best ways to restrain yourself from smoking is to take a walk outside as soon as the craving hits. The walk will distract you and keep you occupied long enough for the craving to subside.
A Few Tips To Perfect Your Walking
The best way to walk is to do it briskly. Brisk walking comes somewhere between walking and running, at a transitional speed. But it’s not just about the pace. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Control your breathing. Uneven and fast-paced breathing will tire you faster. So go slow and easy. You can even sync the breaths with your steps to keep it under control.
- Work on your posture and gait. Walk from your heel to toe, i.e., your heel should always touch the ground first. Swing your arms and do not keep them stiff by your side. Look ahead and not down. Keep your back straight. Allow your hips and waist to move freely and naturally.
- Choose the right path. Opt for smooth roads with less traffic. Take the roads that you’re used to.
- Engage your abs and keep them tight as you walk.
- Take measured strides. Keep them neither too big nor too small.
- Choose the right gear. Choose clothes and shoes that are comfortable for walking.
- Maintain a schedule. Follow the same routine every day. Walk before breakfast to burn more fat.16 Take a stroll after meals to enhance digestion.
Walk fast enough to accelerate your heartbeat and to make you breathe harder and deeper. Know that the pace is too fast if you are unable to speak. Increase the speed and duration as and when you get into the groove and walk a minimum of 30–60 minutes a day, at least 4 days a week. Follow good habits that will give you a long, healthy life that keeps you on your toes.
|↑1||Borg, P., K. Kukkonen-Harjula, M. Fogelholm, and M. Pasanen. “Effects of walking or resistance training on weight loss maintenance in obese, middle-aged men: a randomized trial.” International journal of obesity 26, no. 5 (2002): 676.|
|↑2, ↑3||Yamanouchi, Kunio, Takashi Shinozaki, Kiwami Chikada, Toshihiko Nishikawa, Katsunori Ito, Shoji Shimizu, Norihito Ozawa et al. “Daily walking combined with diet therapy is a useful means for obese NIDDM patients not only to reduce body weight but also to improve insulin sensitivity.” Diabetes care 18, no. 6 (1995): 775-778.|
|↑4||Rosenqvist, Tomas Fritz, Urban. “Walking for exercise? immediate effect on blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes.” Scandinavian journal of primary health care 19, no. 1 (2001): 31-33.|
|↑5||Manohar, Chinmay, James A. Levine, Debashis K. Nandy, Ahmed Saad, Chiara Dalla Man, Shelly K. McCrady-Spitzer, Rita Basu et al. “The effect of walking on postprandial glycemic excursion in patients with type 1 diabetes and healthy people.” Diabetes Care 35, no. 12 (2012): 2493-2499.|
|↑6, ↑8||Murphy, Marie H., Alan M. Nevill, Elaine M. Murtagh, and Roger L. Holder. “The effect of walking on fitness, fatness and resting blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomised, controlled trials.” Preventive medicine 44, no. 5 (2007): 377-385.|
|↑7, ↑14||IWANE, Masataka, Mikio ARITA, Shigehiro TOMIMOTO, Osamu SATANI, Masanobu MATSUMOTO, Kazuhisa MIYASHITA, and Ichiro NISHIO. “Walking 10, 000 steps/day or more reduces blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity in mild essential hypertension.” Hypertension Research 23, no. 6 (2000): 573-580.|
|↑9||Hakim, Amy A., J. David Curb, Helen Petrovitch, Beatriz L. Rodriguez, Katsuhiko Yano, G. Webster Ross, Lon R. White, and Robert D. Abbott. “Effects of walking on coronary heart disease in elderly men.” Circulation 100, no. 1 (1999): 9-13.|
|↑10||Abbott, Robert D., Lon R. White, G. Webster Ross, Kamal H. Masaki, J. David Curb, and Helen Petrovitch. “Walking and dementia in physically capable elderly men.” Jama 292, no. 12 (2004): 1447-1453.|
|↑11||Hovis, Keegan K., Christoph Stehling, Richard B. Souza, Bryan D. Haughom, Thomas Baum, Michael Nevitt, Charles McCulloch, John A. Lynch, and Thomas M. Link. “Physical activity is associated with MR-based knee cartilage T2 measurements in asymptomatic subjects with and without osteoarthritis risk factors.” Arthritis and rheumatism 63, no. 8 (2011): 2248.|
|↑12||Shakoor, Najia, and Joel A. Block. “Walking barefoot decreases loading on the lower extremity joints in knee osteoarthritis.” Arthritis & Rheumatology 54, no. 9 (2006): 2923-2927.|
|↑13||Mock, Victoria, Karen Hassey Dow, Candace J. Meares, Patricia M. Grimm, Jacqueline A. Dienemann, Mary Ellen Haisfield-Wolfe, Wendy Quitasol, Stephanie Mitchell, Anuradha Chakravarthy, and Irene Gage. “Effects of exercise on fatigue, physical functioning, and emotional distress during radiation therapy for breast cancer.” In Oncology nursing forum, vol. 24, no. 6, pp. 991-1000. 1997.|
|↑15||Oppezzo, Marily, and Daniel L. Schwartz. “Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking.” Journal of experimental psychology: learning, memory, and cognition 40, no. 4 (2014): 1142.|
|↑16||Gonzalez, Javier T., et al. “Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males.” British Journal of Nutrition 110.04 (2013): 721-732.|