Did you know that walking is one of the best forms of exercise? And it is very convenient, safe and easy to do.
Walking is an exercise that works on your body muscles and improves how your heart, lungs and muscles function.
The benefits you can get from walking are many and fit into two categories:
- Physical benefits: the physical benefits you get from walking come from how the activity conditions your heart to work better. Walking makes your heart fit and healthy. It reduces the risk of long-term diseases, such as cancer, stroke and type-2 diabetes. It may help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight and will strengthen your muscles and bones.
- Mental benefits: taking regular walks improves your mood, reduces stress, and increases your ability to reason and think because of improved brain function.
Experts suggest that to benefit from walking as an exercise, you need to walk at least 150 minutes weekly and preferably spread it over several days- for example, 4 days of 40 minutes, or 5 days of 30 minutes. If you prefer a daily routine, aim to walk for 25 minutes every day.
The intensity of your walks is one that you should also consider:
- For moderate-intensity walking, you can still carry on a conversation while walking. This will help you maintain a healthy weight.
- While for vigorous intensity, it would be difficult to carry on a conversation while walking. This will help you lose weight.
There are specific techniques that can help ensure your chances of injury are lower when you walk as an exercise. These techniques include:
- Warm-up or stretch (relax, loosen your shoulders and legs) before you walk.
- Keep your head facing directly in front of you and not towards the ground when you walk.
- Try straightening your back while walking, avoid walking with a bent back.
Here are a few walking tips for you:
- Start with moderate-intensity walking, increasing both intensity and distance covered gradually.
- Get shoes that support your feet and fit comfortably (e.g. sneakers). Avoid wearing shoes with high heels, flip-flops or flat shoes for walking.
- Set weekly goals, then break them down into daily goals that you can track in a journal or with a mobile device (phone app or pedometer device).
- Consider getting a walking partner or a walking group together. This can motivate you to be more physically active, as it is often more fun than walking alone.
- You can consider walking different routes to provide some variety.
- Do not walk along lonely streets or paths that you consider dangerous.
If you have any health conditions, first speak with your healthcare provider to discuss the appropriate walking regimen for you.
Walking is a safe physical activity. If you live in a city, walking rather than taking a bike from the bus stop will improve your heart health.
In some parts of Nigeria, you may want to wear light casual clothes rather than exercise cloth to avoid disrespecting the culture of your neighbours or hosts.