From the moment it begins beating until the moment it stops, the human heart works tirelessly. In an average lifetime, the heart beats more than two and a half billion times, without ever pausing to rest. Like a pumping machine, the heart provides the power needed for life. The good news is that heart disease has become one of the most carefully studied health problems. More is known about the causes and prevention of heart attacks than most other diseases that kill us. That is truly good news, since what has been learned allows us to assess the risks brought about by our lifestyle and to know what we can do to reduce the risks. There are some risk factors you're stuck with. You can't change the genes your parents gave you. But still there are things you can do to reduce the riskf factors.
People who do regular physical activity are less likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Whether it's included in a structured exercise programme or part of your daily routine, all physical activity adds up to a healthier heart.Walking is the most natural exercise of all. It's simple and safe and its life-enhancing benefits are all within walking distance. It can be done without equipment, except good shoes, in most terrains and weather and into very old age.
All the benefits from daily walking are closely keyed to increased oxygen intake, greater heart exercise and better blood circulation. Since leg muscles are the largest and most powerful muscles of the body, they act as an auxiliary blood pump, returning blood to the heart.
There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the body, mostly capillaries- those minute vessels responsible for irrigating the flesh. Only a few capillaries will open when a muscle is at rest. Perhaps 50 times as many will open when the muscle is being exercised. Walking will not only awaken dormant capillaries but apparently increase the number of the vessels that nourish the muscles. Walking clears the mind, improves disposition and dispels temper. It cuts fatigue and you get bonus from being in shape. Few regular brisk walkers need laxatives. fA prime point in favour of brisk walking is that you don't have to schedule it. You can just incorporate it in your daily lifestyle.
Walking is a great way to get fit, as long as you walk correctly. . When you pay attention to your form and follow the guidelines below, you will engage the proper muscles and cause less strain on your back and neck.
Posture: Stand up straight. Leaning puts strain on the back muscles. Chin up (parallel to the ground). This reduces strain on neck and back. Let your shoulders fall and relax; suck in your stomach, tuck in your behind - rotate your hip forward slightly. This will keep you from arching your back. Arms: Bend your elbow 90 degrees, hands in a partially closed curl, never clenched which can raise your blood pressure! With each step, the arm opposite your forward foot comes straight forward, As the foot goes back, the opposite arm comes straight back. Keep your elbows close to your body.
Taking a Step: Strike the ground first with your heel. Roll through the step from heel to toe. Push off with your toe. Bring the back leg forward to strike again with the heel.
Your Stride: Take more, smaller steps rather than lengthening your stride.Your forward leg has no power, while your back leg is what is driving you forward. Warm Up: Start out at a slow, easy pace for 5 minutes for each walking session. Then do some brief stretching.
Cool Down: For the final 5-10 minutes of your walk, finish with an easy walking pace. At the end of your walk you must repeat the stretches you did after your warm-up, but hold each stretch for a longer duration of time.
People who do regular physical activity are less likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Whether it's included in a structured exercise programme or part of your daily routine.
Dr Anju Ghei, VP Fitness, VLCC
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