Walking is undoubtedly one of the most relaxing, refreshing and enlivening forms of exercise. The benefits range from keeping your heart healthy, reducing the risk of medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Research findings demonstrate that significant improvements in cardio-respiratory fitness can be achieved and maintained with a prescription for walking for 30 minutes per day, either at a moderate intensity five to seven days per week or at a higher intensity three to four days per week. Moderate intensity walking refers to an intensity at which you may be breathing a little harder than usual, but are able to keep up a full conversation. During high intensity walking, you are able to speak, but only in short sentences.
Walking comes naturally to most of us and is the most non-jerky exercise. Fast walking or race walking has the highest calorie burn per minute as compared to almost any other form of exercise including cycling, squash, rowing, golf and gardening. Walking helps increase aerobic fitness, increases good cholesterol level (high-density lipoprotein), helps detoxify the body (through sweating), improves micro circulation in your lungs, brain and tones up the endocrine system.
Walk yourself thin
Combine walking and running if you want to lose weight. As you walk first to warm up and then run until you tire and then ease back into a walk, you will find that the ratio between the two changes till you are running for more time than you walk.
Tips for walkers
Include a warm-up period before you enter the target intensity period. For best cardiovascular benefits, aim for 20 to 40 minutes in the moderate intensity zone, apart from the time you spend in warming-up and cooling-down. A general rule of thumb is to increase the duration by 10 per cent every week.
Normal walking motion uses the arms to counterbalance the motion of the legs. The ideal way would be to bend your arms at 90 degrees and swing them naturally back and forth opposing the leg motion.
Always look up or stare ahead (with your chin being parallel to the ground), as this posture allows you to breathe well and also prevent possible back, neck and shoulder problems.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.