Health & Fitness: How to get a spring in your step…
In our society there is an increase in the amount of the population leading sedentary lifestyles. This means we are in need of effective exercise. Often people choose high impact workouts such as running or cycling. Why? Because, many believe in the motto – no pain no gain! However, this does not have to be the case as when done regularly, walking, can be very beneficial.
Does walking burn enough calories?
This depends on your unique situation and health circumstances. For example, if you are just beginning an exercise regime or want to lose a few pounds a good starting point may be walking 20 minutes a day. As you progress the time can be extended or a second walk added.
There is a new recommendation which you may be familiar with – 10 minutes of brisk walking per day. This is referred to as an ‘active 10’ and is considered to make a big impact on your health as during the 10 minutes your heart is pumping at a faster pace than regular walking alone.
In the short space of 10 minutes you will have increased energy levels, a clearer head and a lifted mood. It is straightforward, accessible and best of all, costs nothing! The 10 minutes will also allow you assess your fitness levels and you may choose to do more than the ‘active 10’ or use it as a top up to your regular exercise routine.
Connect to nature
Of course the ‘active 10’ may not be for you – perhaps you prefer to walk at a slower pace and admire and take in your surroundings. That is a huge advantage of walking – being connected to the environment. Depending on where you live you may have access to wonderful scenery, the beach or nature walks. Even in busy cities there are parks and rivers to enjoy. Another huge advantage of walking is the exposure to vitamin D. This is beneficial to us in many ways and deficiency is common in the UK. The sunshine triggers the production of vitamin D in our bodies and this is good for our bone density and mood.
Attitudes to walking vary with many considering that it is just an everyday activity to get from A to B. However, for the ambitious fitness fanatic, walking can be adapted to make it higher impact. Several miles can be walked or even mountains. Although not considered as trendy as some fitness classes, people are beginning to recognise the advantages of walking more and more.
The physical activity of walking can incorporate mindfulness, which is now becoming quite an established method of meditation. Mindful walking involves calming the body and mind and being focused on stillness. You should be aware of each step and breath and be able to stop, concentrate and collect your thoughts. ‘Zen’ walking which is quite similar is also gaining in popularity.
How important are fitness trackers?
Are fitness trackers essential? Fitness trackers are certainly beneficial and have their place in a fitness regime however it depends on your reasons for walking. If you are walking for the wellbeing benefits and only maintaining fitness levels then you may not want to become distracted with a tracker.
On the other hand you may find your tracker very useful and actually a motivational factor. 10,000 steps per day is considered to be an amount to strive towards. You may also calculate the calories you have burned and work out a fitness program where walking is also helping you to lose weight, if necessary.
For the mind, walking is a treat – it has been found that it is as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depressive disorders. It strengthens concentration levels and helps to connect you to the present moment. It also eliminates stress, calms the nervous system and can give you a spiritual lift.
Walk off physical conditions
Even long term physical conditions can be prevented by walking such as lower back pain, diabetes and heart problems. On top of that it repairs our DNA and improves sleep. Pain killing endorphins are released giving us a sense of mental and physical well-being.
For those of us who are more social or seeking encouragement, there are many walking group associations. This may make it more fun and enjoyable. The walking group will have knowledge of the area and the best and most easy/challenging walks available.
Walking, although free has one important cost and that is your footwear. This should not be skimped on as the health of your feet and ankles are essential. You want to be comfortable and have footwear which is durable and suitable for all weather conditions. All the popular trainer brands have functional trainers suitable for running and walking.
So it is time to get a spring in your step – whether it is an ‘active 10’ or a leisurely hour. Your walking fitness program should be part of your daily life bringing with it many health advantages.