Walking basics for diabetics

Regular walking is good for diabetics. Here are a few things you must incorporate to derive the best possible benefits from your walk

People walking on the sea side

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”

Henry David Thoreau

Walking is one of safest and best forms of exercise. But a regular walking programme is more than indispensable for diabetics. Walking, on a regular basis, helps to keep your sugar levels in check. It burns calories, exercises your respiratory muscles, increases oxygen uptake, and boosts the production of endorphins, the “feel-good” hormone. What’s more, it does not require any special equipment or gear. Most important, walking can be done anywhere. When you walk, you will also feel close to nature and with yourself.

Walking basics for diabetics

Go for a walk, as and when time permits. The best thing to do is to go for a 30-minute regular walk, set at a good pace—not too fast or not too slow—4-5 times a week. If you can’t, for whatever reason walk at one “go,” break your walk into two 15-minute sessions at different times of the day.

There are a few things you’d need to incorporate to derive the best possible benefits from your walk. Let’s look at them:

Walk with the right footwear

Without the right footwear, your walk will be tiresome and could even hurt your feet. So always wear the right type of shoes while going for your walk. Your shoes should fit you well and feel comfortable. They should be well-designed and able to absorb shock. This is very important to prevent foot problems, such as blisters. Remember that diabetes slows down your natural healing process. Hence, getting the right fit in a walking shoe is an important part of foot care and wound prevention.

Wear the right type of socks. This will again help prevent blisters. It is best not to wear your favourite cotton socks! You won’t believe this. But, the fact is, cotton binds sweat. This can lead to blisters. Choose a synthetic fabric that does not hold sweat. This will help keep your feet dry, which is good for you.

Walking posture

First things first. Your walking posture matters. The right posture makes your walk not only more effective but more enjoyable too. This is how you should walk: Hold your head high and swing your arms gently as you walk. To do this correctly, bend your arms at a 90-degree angle, and swing them naturally, back and forth.

Warm up

It is important to warm up before starting to walk briskly.

  • To start with, walk slowly for 2-3 minutes. Take a couple of minutes to stretch all the major muscles you will be using when walking
  • Hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds
  • Never jump while stretching
  • Your warm up should last 5-10 minutes. This will help to slowly increase your heart rate and deliver blood to areas of the body that are about to work, when you walk.

Cool down

Cooling down after a walking session is as important as warming up.

  • Allot the last five minutes of your walk to cool down
  • Also, slowly reduce your pace of walking. This lowers your heart rate; your heart will come closer to your resting heart rate [This is a person’s heart rate at rest]. A resting heart rate [60-80 times per minute] denotes your basic fitness levels. It can be measured by the number of heart beats per minute when you are at complete rest.
  • Duplicate the stretching exercises you did to warm up. But, don’t extend this beyond five minutes.
  • This routine will increase your flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. You will also now be more relaxed and focused.

Know your heart rate

Place first two fingers over the radial artery located in your wrist directly in line with the thumb. Feel the artery pulsations to record your heart rate. Count the beats for a full one minute, or count for six seconds, and add a zero at the end. If you felt your heart beats 14 times in six seconds, the number would be 140 for a full 60 seconds. Counting for only six seconds is a convenient method. However, it is more accurate to count for full 60 seconds.

You can, of course, use wearable devices that monitor your heart rate continuously. These days wearable devices are easily available and are not too hard on your pocket either.

Target Heart Rate

To get the most health benefits from your walking plan, your heart, while exercising, should be in the range from 55 per cent to 90 per cent of your Maximum Heart Rate. Subtract your age from 220 [226 for women] to calculate your Maximum Heart Rate.

You can now easily find your Target Heart Rate. It should be in the range of 50-60 per cent of your Maximum Heart Rate.

Try to start at the lower end of the range. As you become more accustomed to the schedule and more fit, try to aim for a higher heart rate, while staying within the range.

How to use Target Heart Rate

The range from low [55 per cent] to high [90 per cent] is your Target Heart Rate. Feel your pulse at your wrist for 10 seconds. Count your pulse for 10 seconds, several times during your walk. If you fall below your Target Heart Rate, walk faster. If you are above your Target Heart Rate, slow down.

A version of this article appeared in the October 2007 issue of Complete Wellbeing magazine.

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