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Walk Your Way to Health

We often crib that there is not enough time to exercise - where is the time to go to a gym or yoga classes, we say. In fact, let's face it, in the case of many of us, exercise doesn't even figure in our daily routine. When our children go to school they take the school bus, no matter that the school is just two blocks away. We ourselves take the car whenever we go out anywhere. With the kind of sedentary lives that we lead in the cities, we are losing out on the joys of that simple exercise - walking. Let us reclaim this pleasurable path to health. It is easy, safe and enjoyable.

Walking is acknowledged to be a great exercise for overall health. See what it does to our body.

Panacea for all

  • It is a great cardiovascular workout. People who walk and are active are at considerably lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases than those leading sedentary lives. Walking is good for the heart and lungs, and therefore, very beneficial for the heart patients.
  • Walking tones muscles, strengthens the bones and makes them flexible. Therefore, children should be particularly encouraged to walk.
  • When all avenues of exercise are closed for the aged, the option of walking still exists. Walking is particularly therapeutic for the old; it is also known to prolong life!
  • Walking works wonders for the well-being of a pregnant woman and her unborn child.
  • Walking is a good weight loss exercise as it helps burn excess fat.
  • Walking keeps your digestive system well-oiled and relieves constipation.
  • By increasing the immune system cells it makes our body more resistant to attacks from pathogens.
  • Walking is a feel-good exercise; it peps up the mood and gladdens the heart. It also makes us more energetic over a period of time.

With ipod or friends

Walking is a no-fuss exercise. You do not need any cumbersome paraphernalia; just put on your walking or running shoes and set off. But the shoes had better be good, so invest in a good pair. They should be the wear it, forget it kind - not too tight or too stiff. And the ideal gear is the track suit. If walking is your time out and you wish to go alone, carry a walk-man or an ipod and take off. If you prefer gupshup to silence, do it in company of fellow-walkers or friends.

Brisk walking

Walking is one activity that can be done to suit one's pace. If you are old, you can stroll, albeit for a long time, and as a beginner, walk at an easy pace before you pick up speed. But, when we talk of walking we mean outdoor walking, and not treadmill walking; it is not the same! Whether you amble, stroll or walk, the aim should be to do 'brisk walking' ultimately; only that way will you derive maximum benefit from this workout.

A good posture is important for walking. If you lean forward or arch your back you'll unnecessarily stress and injure your muscles. Keep the back straight, tuck the stomach in, tighten the buttocks and swing the arms to keep pace with the leg movements. Allow your body to warm up with a few stretches or by walking at slow pace for 5 - 10 minutes, before you start 'brisk walking'. Then too, do not overdo it; the pace should be fast, but not forced. Quicken your steps, but don't take long strides. You should glide easily.

A 30-40- minute walk of moderate intensity, 4 - 5 days a week, with a day or two of rest in between, will be an ideal regimen.

Children and walking

To inculcate the habit of walking among children, parents will have to first kindle enthusiasm in them. Obviously, you can't expect children to do 'brisk walking' with you; you will have to slacken your pace to include them. Walking with children will be an exploratory experience; they will want to stop to see some flower or pat a pet dog. That is the way it should be. Make it a long walk, but be sure to have a reward for the child at the end of the walk. Therefore, predetermine the destination; tell the child that we are going for an ice-cream at a joint a little far away from home and he will tag along.

Anywhere, anytime activity

You can't have an excuse for not walking. If you can't spare half an hour, you surely can spare 10 - 15 minutes. Even a 10-minute walk to the bus stop or market, or a climb up and down the stairs will keep the meter running, so to say. The trick is to be at it whenever, wherever, rather than waiting for something ambitious.

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