The benefits of walking for our physical well-being are well documented
but a 30 minute daily walk can help reduce stress and anxiety too.
How will I benefit physically from walking regularly?
Walking at a brisk pace – making your heart beat faster, but where you are still able to converse normally – can be of fantastic all round value for your health. It can make your heart stronger and may help lower your risk of heart disease, guard against conditions such as type 2 diabetes and it can burn calories which can help maintain a healthy weight.
Regular brisk walking will also help strengthen your core and the muscles in your legs and bottom. If your core muscles are strong then your posture will improve which in turn can help to avoid lumbar pain.
Experts believe that adults should exercise aerobically (jogging or brisk walking for instance) for at least 150 minutes a week. This could be broken up into half hour chunks of exercise for five days a week or even shorter bursts of more regular exercise.
Does regular walking help with mental health?
Researchers have found that depression and low mood can be improved by walking. Improvement in mental health has been seen by regularly walking half an hour each time more than twice a week over a ten week period.
“Regular exercise can help prevent physical illness, can help combat depression and can help improve your sense of self worth”, says AXA PPP Healthcare’s psychological expert, Dr Mark Winwood. “Walking is a great way to set you on the road to being physically and mentally fitter.”
Chemicals like dopamine and serotonin are released when you’re physically active and these give your mood a boost. If you are stressed, then exercise can help the brain make more positive connections, enabling us to better cope with our worries”.
Is jogging better for us?
Jogging is more vigorous than brisk walking and puts more strain on your muscles, although it is good aerobic exercise. It is up to you and your ability level whether you decide to walk or jog but if you are fairly inactive and choose to start by jogging, then pay attention to your lower body and joints as these may suffer to begin with. As with any exercise, build up gradually and don’t overdo it at the beginning.
It is important to enjoy any exercise you undertake as the aim is to stick at it, so if you prefer to go for a brisk walk rather than a jog then that will definitely be better for you.
What type of terrain should I walk on?
Hills are more challenging and so will be better for your cardiovascular fitness and will also make your calf muscles stronger. If you choose to walk on uneven ground then this will work your ankle muscles.
How should I start?
It is always better to start slowly when you try something new, especially if you are fairly inactive to start with. Remember that not only will you be working muscles you have not worked for a while, but you will also be making your heart and lungs work harder too. Start by walking on a flat route for perhaps 20 minutes, then another time include a hill, then gradually increase your distance and then perhaps increase the time you’re out and so on.
If at any time you struggle to walk and talk then you’re probably working too hard – your breathing should be heavier with brisk walking but you should still be able to hold a conversation.
As with any exercise, it is important to stretch out afterwards so your muscles don’t ache the next day. Concentrate on stretching your hamstrings, calves and thighs.
Does it matter if I miss a day’s exercise?
It is not the end of the world if you miss a day as the aim is to achieve 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. If you’re not able to exercise one day then you can add a few extra minutes onto your subsequent days throughout the week. It is best, however, to build walking into your daily routine and so making it a habit you’re less likely to break.
I can’t manage 30 minutes a day – can I do less and still benefit?
It is recommended that we should all take moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week but if this is not easy for you to manage at first then 20 minutes a day, though not as beneficial as 30, is certainly better than doing nothing at all! So don’t worry, try and gradually increase the time that you can walk. But if this is not possible then you may find that you are already doing other things in your day that count towards your 150 – like gardening, housework, or chasing after children!
I wear trainers but my feet are still sore when I walk
It is possible that your trainers are worn out or not particularly supportive in the first place. It is best to invest in a good pair of trainers that provide you with a cushioned insole. Not enough cushioning may result in direct pressure on your heel or the balls of your feet. You could also suffer minor strains from the extra pressure placed on the soft tissue on the underside of the foot, especially the arches if there is lack of support there too.
If you invest in a new pair of shoes, then do break them in before you embark on your walking regime as this can also result in painful feet.
If you do have sore feet after a good walk then a useful remedy is to gently stretch them, but don’t forget to stretch your calf muscles too as these can also be a cause of pain and stiffness in the feet. Another way of relieving foot pain is to roll a small ball, like a tennis or golf ball, under your foot.
(Article source: Silver Surfers)