Health Benefits of Walking

Health Benefits of Walking

Morning Walk has become synonymous with Exercise and is being promoted and even recommended by Doctors for long life, health, Obesity etc.

Let’s analyze this…

Exercise is an activity performed with intention of expending energy, an activity which is repetitive, focusing on specific areas and in general as well to elicit higher tonicity and enhanced functional abilities. The core idea is to maintain a particular tone throughout the day – night cycle, so that the body and mind can function better.

Suppose we do not exercise at all – the systems would start losing its tonicity and get influenced by our other activities and lose the functional capabilities and under function – physical and mental imbalances leading in the long run to diseases as well.

Certain activities when performed in such regularity could also enhance the normal functions and help one move to a higher level of normalcy and heightened activity – examples are Athletes, Yoga practitioners and other trained activities / exercises. This training is specific and changes as per person, condition and AIM of the individual – in short they are never continued as same activity!

When we do any activity regularly for long duration (days) it start losing it’s original result as the systems do get used (to say it loosely) to the activity. As a result the tonicity required to be FRESH (new) is not achieved. This leads to “mono-tonicity” and we do not achieve the desired benefits of such an activity.

Morning walk / Walking as an exercise were promoted as a new remedy for the new age problem of “Comfort” living and related health problems like metabolic syndrome, Obesity, Heart diseases etc. It is better to walk a bit at least as exercise than doing nothing – certainly it is true as well! But even that is becoming “Not enough a prescription” in many of the contemporary lives.

When cardiology developed and started identifying Heart diseases as a leading mortality indicator, ways to improve heart and its related system’s functions gained considerable notice. In addition to medication and surgery which were proved ineffective as a lone remedy, it had to be addressed through lifestyle measures. This warranted a “prescription” as lifestyle measure and cardiologists started emphasizing on Walking! Walking helps to activate the “External Heart” (Calf muscles / Gastronemius) and helps in improving venous return (back flow of blood to the heart) and thus help in maintaining a fit heart along with medication and diet.

People started taking to walking as the best way as an exercise! Fair enough for someone who is a beginner to exercise and who has limitations and disabilities or other medical conditions. But it unfortunately and insidiously popularized walking as the best measure as a daily fitness activity, an activity for all conditions and for everyone in general!

This is not necessarily so! An obese diabetic person may benefit a bit from walking but without exercising his core muscles (Muscles of spine and abdomen) he cannot achieve the desired benefits of an exercise. Similarly a person with respiratory conditions must focus on parts that are more specific like the chest and upper back in addition. Hypothyroidism is another condition common, which also require toning up of the core areas than a mere walking for considerable results.

Having such an understanding let us now learn to walk!

1.Time: Any time is appropriate for a “Nothing Doer” as a starting, but it is appropriate to choose morning hours or evening hours. Night is meant for stroll only and not for heavy / high intensity exercises. (Please note exceptions are every where and have to be considered as individual suggestions).

2.Duration: a minimum of 30 minutes is suggested as it helps to activate many chemical and pathways which changes based on duration of the activity especially fat burning.

3.Place: Ideally open air with freshness and purity, or even indoor on a cycle / treadmill. An even surface is necessary to avoid injuries especially among the senior people.

4.Clothing: fitting shoes and breathable clothing is recommended to ensure safety and temperature regulation.

5.Empty stomach or light snacks are fine. It is but a must to ensure clean bowels and bladder (eliminate waste to avoid undue stress on nervous system).

6.Start walking! Slow steady steps and comfortable speed. This is warming up. Add all joint movements as you warm up to ensure “Full Body” is activated.

7.Ensure soles are placed fully and completely on ground (you are walking and nor running). Load and pressure must be evenly distributed to avoid injuries (short and long duration). One easy method is to check the shoes for marks which would help us identify pressure marks and reveal the technique defects. Correct them gradually with practice.

8.Most importantly, hand movements (like an army march past) are to be added as it helps to keep up the momentum of upper body, balances the speed and minor muscle tone changes.

9.Walking is to be done almost like SWMMING in Air!

10.Change the speed at intervals – Interval training – this helps to avoid development of Mono – tonicity and ensure long term benefits. Slow jogging is also fine (not for people with joint problems or other medically relevant conditions).

11.An ideal speed is between 4 to 6 KMs in an hour (walking speed) on an average.

12.Add joint movements in between to ensure proper circulation and distribution of warmth thus helping the body as a whole to involve.

13.Vary walking style by raising the knees up / gentle hoping etc.

14.Add Variations: reverse walk (walking backwards), side steps, long steps, Stationary walk etc. Reverse walk is an ideal try always.

15.Slow down as you reach the time and allow cooling down. Add joint movements as before. Spinal twists are to be remembered as a necessity!

16.Cooling down is followed by few deep abdominal breaths.

17.Hydrate with normal temperature water (not refrigerated for sure).

18.An easy and non technical way to assess your exercise intensity is to check the sweating. (Be careful that weather, individual constitutional variations are to be considered).

Author is : Doctor J.Thampi, CMO

Swami Parmanand Prakritik chikitsalaya yoga avam Anusandhan Kendra, Delhi