Walking is one of the commonest form of exercising in India. Although it comes naturally to all of us, it must be remembered that walking normally is not the same as walking for exercise. There are two forms of walking for exercise - slow walking and fast walking (this includes Power walking and Race walking). Both Power and Race walking burn more calories (sometimes more than jogging) and the technique of both these forms is different from normal walking. They are great forms of cardiovascular exercise like jogging but without the wear and tear associated with it. The advantage of slow walking is that it can be done by both non-obese and morbidly obese persons with minimal risk of injuries compared to other forms of exercise.
The benefits of walking include preventing and reversing chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease and losing weight.
Tips for Walking
1. Preparing for a walk is important in terms of making yourself fit for this form of exercise. Avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption maximises the benefits of exercise. Having a balanced diet with fresh small frequent meals rich in iron is beneficial. Hydrate yourself well before the walk.
2. Your attire should include foot trainers with cushioned heels/ socks. Overall, the footwear should be comfortable. Clipping nails of toes short will prevent nail related problems. If required, you can smear foot with vaseline to reduce friction between the footwear and your foot.
3.Maintaining a good posture and technique is vital. Otherwise you would predispose yourself to develop Repetitive Strain Injuries in your body due to the poor technique of walking. If you are not sure about your posture and technique, you should consult your physio/ orthopedist whether you can pursue this form of exercise. Enquire regarding the proper posture and technique and the technique suited for you. It is beyond the scope of this article to describe the details of the technique. Important tips about technique include maximising your arm swing to aid your progress and pointing your feet forward while you progress. Other aspects of technique, only to mention a few, include the distance you put your foot forward (length of the step), the direction and line of the step, point of contact of your foot to the ground, line of progress of the foot in relation to your shoulder . Before embarking on a prolonged exercising regime, corrective steps may be required if the alignment of your limbs is not right.
4. Start slow and gradually increase the pace, duration and distance walked over a period of time. The recommended duration is 30 minutes of brisk walking for 5 days a week. For accuracy, you could use a stopwatch/ metronome/ pedometer to time/ set pace and count steps of your walk to compare and better your performance each time.
5. Walking on a flat terrain is better and reduces chances of twisting your ankle (esp. on irregular surfaces). Long walks uphill can strain your back. Early morning walks are better, preferably in parks or gardens, for your physiology and also in getting fresh air. Avoid walking in very hot/ very cold temperatures and on rainy days to prevent injuries.
6. If you have medical problems, always consult your physician if it is safe for you to do this form of exercise and the precautions to be taken during exercise.
7. Walking with a partner or mobile phone is recommended especially if you have medical problems. Its advisable to carry a packet of Glucose and water to avoid hypoglycaemia (low glucose levels in blood) and dehydration. Know your limits and do not push yourself too hard especially when walking with company.