By Sola Ogundipe
Walking for wellness is fast catching on in Nigeria and the rest of the world. It is now commonplace to observe individuals, couples and groups of persons taking a brisk walk usually in the mornings or evenings. Only last weekend, staff of Vanguard Media Ltd in Lagos embarked on a 10-kilometre “Walk For Life” activity. Walking has long been recognized as one of the easiest ways to get the exercise you need to stay healthy.
Experts recommend at least 24 hours of moderate walking (such as brisk walking, brisk cycling, or yard work) a week. It’s fine to walk in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout the day and week.
The American Heart Association recommends 30-minutes of moderate activity, but three 10-minute periods of activity are almost as beneficial to as an overall fitness as one 30-minute session. Physical activity may also help encourage you to some time outdoors. Sunlight on your skin helps your body produce vitamin D, which brings many added health benefits.
Physical activity is proven to improve both mental and physical health. For instance, regular physical activity can relieve tension, anxiety, depression and anger. You may not only notice a “feel good sensation” immediately following your physical activity, but most people also note an improvement in general well-being over time during the weeks and months as physical activity becomes a part of your routine.
Walk the “walk”
Walking is a form of exercise and exercise increases the flow of oxygen which directly affects the brain. Your mental acuity and memory can be improved with physical activity. Physical activity improves physical wellness, builds srimmunity, enhances the immune system and decreases the risk of developing diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Becoming more active can lower blood pressure by as much as 4-9 mm Hg. That’s the same reduction in blood pressure delivered by some anti-hypertensive medications. Physical activity can also boost your levels of good cholesterol.Brisk walking is a form of aerobic exercise. This is exercise that increases your heart rate for an extended time. Aerobic exercise helps strengthen your heart, lungs, and muscles. A strong heart carries more blood, along with oxygen and nutrients, to the rest of the body. Aerobic exercise also lowers blood pressure, and can help you stay at a healthy weight.
Walking and other aerobic exercise also can improve your mood and energy. Regular exercise helps prevent and reduce symptoms of depression. It helps reduce symptoms of anxiety in children and teens. Walking also keeps your bones healthy. It is a weight-bearing activity, which means that it works the muscles and bones against gravity.
This can help reduce risk of osteoporosis and broken bones.Regular exercise reduces coronary heart disease in women by 30-40 percent, reduces risk of stroke by 20 percent in moderately active people and by 27 percent in highly active ones, establishes good heart-healthy habits in children and counters the conditions (obesity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels, poor lifestyle habits, etc.) that lead to heart attack and stroke later in life and helps delay or prevent chronic illnesses and diseases associated with aging and maintains quality of life and independence longer for seniors.
To get the heart-healthy benefits of walking, you need to walk briskly enough to increase your heart rate and breathing, but not so fast that you can’t talk comfortably. Why walk for wellness? Walking, like all physical activity, burns calories. Being active is important for staying at a healthy weight.
Moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, for as little as 30 minutes a day has the proven health benefits listed as well as improving blood circulation, which reduces the risk of heart disease, keeping weight under control, improving blood cholesterol levels, preventing and managing high blood pressure, boosting energy levels and releasing tension to manage stress.
How can you make a walking programme part of your life? Think of walking as an easy way to burn calories and stay fit while you go about your daily routine. You can make walking an important part of your life by getting friends and family to join you and by finding new ways to put steps in your day.
Walk smart:If you’re worried about how brisk walking might affect your health, talk with your doctor before you start a walking programme. Start with a short-term goal. You don’t have to walk all at once. You can split it up. It’s fine to walk in blocks of 10 minutes or more at a time. You might be surprised to see how many steps you take by simply doing chores and errands or by taking walking breaks during the day.
There are many ways to walk more without going on a long walk. Use the stairs instead of the elevator, or park farther away from work or a shop. Instead of e-mailing or phoning a coworker or neighbor, walk over. When you meet with someone or visit with a friend, suggest taking a walk instead of staying inside.
For example, walk for 5-10 minutes every day. Or increase your number of steps by 300- 500 each day. After you’ve made walking a habit, set a longer-term goal. You may want to set a goal of walking briskly for at least 30 minutes a day or work up to 10,000 steps a day. You can try to do these five days a week or more. To stay motivated, find a walking partner, such as a family member, friend, or coworker. Daily dog walks are also a great way to keep up your walking routine.
Walk safe:Walk in a well-lighted, safe place. Wear comfortable shoes and socks that cushion your feet. Pay attention to your walking surface. Use sidewalks and paths. If you usually walk outside and the weather is bad, take comfortable shoes to the mall and walk several laps inside. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you are active. This is very important when it’s hot out and when you do intense exercise. Take a water bottle with you when you walk.
day. At first, try to add 300 to 500 steps to your day. Then work toward 2,000 more steps a day. A good long-term goal is to get 10,000 steps a day. Instead of watching TV or going out to eat, go out for a walk. At work, get up and move around once an hour. When possible, walk to the shop, to work, school, or shopping. You could walk a lap around the market before you start shopping. Park your car farther away from work or other places you’re going. Walk around your neighborhood or around a park.
So why not see for yourself? Once you get over the initial doubts and find creative ways to fit physical activity into your life, you’ll agree that the effort to get moving is worth it!