The easiest way to good health is walking. It is absolutely free of cost, easily accessible and safest mode of exercise for all age groups. You may walk alone or with a friend. You can also walk with family or may join a walking group and meet new people. You can even walk your dog!
To reap health and fitness benefits, brisk walking is the most appropriate way of walking. It can be described as a pace when you feel warmer, your heart beats faster than normal but is not racing and your breathing becomes deeper than normal but still you are able to carry on a conversation. In case you are gasping for breath, you are overdoing it. You need to slow down.
If you are an absolute beginner who has never ever exercised or you are a de-conditioned individual or you are starting after a long gap then start your walking program gently. Starting with a stroll and then gradually building up to walking faster is the right way. Always increase the distance prior to increasing the speed. The intensity of the brisk walk is absolutely personal. It depends upon gender, age and fitness level. In case you are suffering from any ailment, it is important to consult your doctor about what type and how much exercise you should be doing.
Physical and psychological health benefits of brisk walking can be achieved by performing the activity for 30 minutes for at least 5 days and preferably all days of the week.
The benefits of walking are same as running and in nut shell can be described as below
However, before you start a walking routine you should bear in mind certain cautions
Your walking activity should also be complimented with a balanced and nutritious eating plan. Food gives us energy which is used as fuel when we run. The quality of your exercise will depend upon your diet plan. Hence, a balance of the right amount of carbohydrates (60%), proteins (15%), fats (25%), vitamins and minerals should be derived from a variety of healthful food items. You should ideally eat small portion meals 5-6 times a day with a gap of 2-3 hours in between each meal. This will keep you high in energy throughout the day.
Excellent sources of carbohydrates are
Excellent sources of proteins are
Excellent sources of Good fats (Omega 3 fatty acids – essential fatty acids required by the body) are
All these food items will give you all the required vitamins and minerals. However, there are certain food rules to follow before a walk. Avoid foods such as milk, cheese and ice cream just before a walk as they contain lactose, a milk sugar, which many people are unable to digest easily. This may create discomfort while walking and can lead to stomach cramps. Avoid beans and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage as they have the tendency to produce gas which will again be uncomfortable for the activity. Do not eat hard to digest proteins and fats just before walking as they may take longer to get absorbed into your system and interrupt into your walking. Most of the blood supply will shift to the gastrointestinal tract for digestion rather than to the working muscles supporting walking.
Watch your meal timings. There should be a gap of three hours between a big meal and physical activity. Eat dinner two hours before going to bed always in case you plan to walk early morning and very important, always try to clear your system before a walk or any physical activity. What can be eaten before the activity is entirely a process of experimentation for you. Walking or any exercise is fueled primarily by carbohydrates. If you plan to go for a long walk (more than an hour) you will have to device a small snack or any sports drink for yourself depending upon what suits your stomach best.
As for how many calories a person should consume depends upon the goal, activity level and lifestyle of an individual. In general, women should consume in between 1,200 to 1,500 kcal a day and men should consume 1,800 to 2,000 kcal a day.
Basic toolkit for Walking
Walking injuries & Injury Management
Being a low impact activity, walking results in far fewer injuries than activities such as running but even then certain injuries can happen. First of all, always try to prevent injuries by:
Still injuries may happen and you can always first-aid them.
Common Walking Injuries
1. Shin Splints
Pain at the front of the lower leg (below the knee to the ankle) can be one of the common walking injuries. The bone of the lower leg (shin bone) gets inflamed due to traction forces.
Signs & Symptoms of Shin Splints
Self prevention and treatment:
2. Plantar Fascitis
Plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs from the heel bone to the ball of the foot.
Signs & Symptoms
3. Achilles Tendonitis
The Achilles tendon is a large tendon (a connective tissue which connects muscle to the bone) at the back of ankle which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone and provides power during the push off phase of the walking cycle.
Signs & Symptoms
Blisters are a common problem while starting a walking program. Ill-fitting shoes or too much moisture next to your skin may lead to blisters. Thus, wear shoes that fit well and are meant for walking. Always wear socks that soak up sweat.
Blisters when left unattended can become a chronic problem. Take the following steps to control and cure
5. Ankle Sprains
Sprains may occur when you abruptly twist or turn your ankle while walking. Always watch where you step.
Signs & Symptoms