“I’m on my feet the whole day, so I don’t need to walk.”
“I have to catch a train in the morning, and rush to office. In the evening, it’s ditto in the reverse. I don’t need to walk.”
If this is your riposte, you aren’t aware that when walking is meant to be an exercise, you can’t compare it with strolling through a mall or manipulating your way through a crowd. You need to have a brisk, rhythmic trot if you want to derive any benefit from it.
Watch the “exercise” enthusiasts in the park any morning. Some swing their arms up to their shoulders, military style, marching with wide, vigorous strides. Others saunter along, chatting with friends they meet along the way, even stopping at the fresh-juice vendor. Some walk in saris and tennis shoes, others in regular sports wear, yet others in what they’d have gone to bed in!
Most walk at a moderate, but regular pace, breathing evenly in the beginning, a little rapidly after a couple of minutes, and end up sweaty, flushed but pleasantly so. Perhaps, all of them walk for an hour. All of them benefit, but not equally, as you can see.
Simple, and compound
Walking is complicated action. It involves co-ordination of the feet, the legs, hands, back, torso, and the brain.
It speeds up the heart and respiratory rates. It helps the body eliminate toxins naturally, quickly. It helps reduce weight and, paradoxically, it helps increase appetite, makes you more alert, and it’s free.
It gives you time to yourself, brushes the cobwebs from your mind, lets the fresh air into your system, and allows soulful conversation with favourite companions [many people swear that their richest, most memorable moments have been walking their dogs!]. The elderly remain active and the young gain confidence. Those who crave for communion with God claim that solitary walking in silence [Well, you could be surrounded by traffic, but you should not be talking to yourself] is like taking a dose of meditation. It stimulates relaxation, and helps those who can’t get sleep easily.
What might constitute an “ideal” walk, for those in average health, with our modern, rushed lifestyle? Dr Abhay Nene, spine surgeon, says, “For our purpose, we’ll take a speed of 6 km an hour, for 30 minutes, for 3 km, for at least four days a week. Age isn’t a bar here.”
More than this will do fine, but if the benefits of walking have to be enjoyed, it shouldn’t be less. Overenthusiastic folks among us may fancy jogging, but that’s ok. It’s the lazy I’m-doing-something-ain’t-I ones that need to work a little harder.
Walking calms jangled nerves and improves bad moods. It de-stresses us. How? Psychiatrist Dr Kersi Chavda explains: “Walking releases naturally-occurring neurotransmitters that provide a ‘high.’ This reduces depressive episodes and anxiety.”
There’s more: walking helps channelise sexual impulses, and helps control disorders by increasing frustration tolerance. For those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD] and specific learning disabilities, there is a technique of walking backwards that helps.”
People who are very sensitive about unavoidable embarrassing situations can overcome their problem by a regular, well-structured walking programme.
Pregnancy is a time of dis-ease [= unease, not disease!] and, besides swimming, which is not an activity accessible to everyone, walking is the best exercise to tide over the discomfort and have an easy delivery and post-partum experience. Walking is an aerobic activity, and the deep inhaling and exhalation flushes the lungs with oxygen, rapidly, and effectively. In fact, what’s pranayama – but, a modification of what happens when you walk!
Walking is good for the sinuses, good for the immune system, thanks to the aeration. Walking triggers the release of endorphins, which are potent brain chemicals. The higher the level of these, the calmer the person feels.
What happens if there isn’t time or space to walk? The best thing to do is to incorporate it in one’s lifestyle.
- Walk to work
- Walk one bus-stop whilst going to work and get off a stop before your destination. This will involve compulsory walking
- At work, have a quick walk before lunch. Conditions may not be ideal, but something is better than nothing.
Walking also helps build social health. You pass the same faces during your “session,” they become familiar, you smile at them, wave, and before long, you have a friend. It adds value to life. You see more, notice more, hear more than your routine permits.
Fragrances, aromas, incidents, stir areas of the brain that your daily grind may have ignored, thanks to walking.
Imperceptibly, walkers begin to take an interest in what’s happening around them, add value to their routines, their lives. Trees, traffic, the sky, lady selling papayas, the man with the awful limp, all become a part of your life. You are now in tune not only with your body, but also Planet Earth.
All because of a daily habit, a habit that is only too good for all of us: walk.
Walk as You Talk
Who says you should walk only in the morning? If you find some other time convenient, go ahead and walk. The keyword is regularity.
- Walk on an empty stomach so your heart won’t be pressurised. Ah, the heart, that important, much talked of organ. Walking does a lot for it
- Walking increases HDL, which is good cholesterol
- It is believed by many doctors that walking can keep certain cardiac conditions at bay and reduce the risk of stroke
- Walking increases stamina and endurance
- It opens up the capillaries, churns up the circulation, and keeps the adrenaline flowing
- Walking tones the muscles and increass muscle mass. It helps keep the body flexible and strong
- Two persons may have the same thigh circumference. But, if one is flabby and the other firm, we know which one looks better, and is stronger.