Walking as a Means of Getting in Shape
The human body functions in such a way that it should be always in motion to maintain its proper vital activity. People who lead sedentary lifestyles are more prone to many diseases, including heart failure and digestive disorders.
The researchers who study obesity claim that the person’s lifestyle (physical activity) has a greater impact on the excess weight than the caloric content of the food.
Walking is an effective physical exercise that can help you maintain good health and look good even in old age. It is a great way to get rid of excess weight.
Let’s highlight the main advantages of this kind of activity:
|Body fitness||Regular walking is an effective way to get rid of extra pounds. People with excess weight in the gluteal and femoral areas begin to lose the volumes in a few weeks after starting walking. It means that walking promotes rapid metabolism, which, in turn, prevents excess fat accumulation in the body.|
|Good sleep||Walking helps reduce the level of the hormone cortisol, thereby improving sleep quality. The best time for walking is in the evening, after dinner. It helps better digest the food, so the full stomach will not cause discomfort during sleep. Also, if a person is very excited, walking is a great way to cope with stress.|
|Good health||It has been scientifically proven that walking improves blood circulation, delivering oxygen to all parts of the body. Blood contains several elements that help the body fight various infections. Protective elements in the human body that circulate in the blood destroy all harmful bacteria that are dangerous to health.|
|Strong bones||Osteoporosis is the most popular age problem associated with bone tissue. Natural ageing of the skeleton can be delayed by walking. Walking is considered medium-load exercise, which, in combination with an adequate calcium intake, improves the condition of the bones.|
|Proper heart functioning||Cardio workouts in combination with walking can help improve the functioning of the heart and blood vessels. Walking helps train the heart muscles, allowing them to work more intensively and effectively.|
|Prevention of hypertension||Many people who lead sedentary lifestyles suffer hypertension. However, morning and evening walks can protect the body from this disease. Walking helps prevent excess fat deposition and promotes strengthening of the walls of the blood vessels, so the normal amount of blood passes through them. Extra adipose tissue constricts the blood vessels, which causes high blood pressure.|
|Constant good mood||Walking as well as any other physical activity helps produce hormones of joy that give a person positive emotions and feeling of happiness. Walking stimulates mental abilities, because the brain receives more oxygen. For this reason, a person becomes more logical and rational about everyday things and finds out the possible reasons of the problems and the ways for solving them better.|
|Healthy lungs||The fresh air that a person breathes while walking helps improve the functioning of the lungs and respiratory muscles. Indoor air contains a much lower concentration of oxygen. Therefore, walking is much healthier than indoor activities.|
|Prevention of diabetes||It is known that diabetes can be inherited. But regular walking in the fresh air can help break this chain. Walking improves metabolism, so blood sugar and insulin levels are better regulated.|
|Meeting new people||While walking, you can easily meet like-minded people with whom you can later arrange health walks. Live communication in combination with physical activity is the best cure for all problems.|
It would seem that there are no contraindications to getting out, breathing fresh air, and walking a couple of kilometers around the park. But, unfortunately, long walks are not recommended for everybody. You should pay particular attention if you:
- have suffered a stroke or a heart attack;
- have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disorders;
- have a cold or another illness (including diabetes, liver disease, glaucoma, risk of retinal detachment);
- have pulmonary disease.
Where to Begin?
Set a Goal
The main goals can be divided into the following groups:
- Strengthening the muscles.
- Getting rid of extra pounds.
Depending on the goal, the speed and time of walking vary, as will be discussed further.
Choose the Speed and Time
According to the speed level, walking can be divided into the following intensity groups:
|Low||2,5||This speed is considered the most comfortable. Usually, most of us walk at this rate, enjoying the surrounding landscapes. If you are healthy, your heart rate should not exceed 60–80 beats per minute. Walking at this pace for at least 20 minutes is a good warm-up for your body.|
This pace has a therapeutic and muscle strengthening effect. A 35-minute walk at this rate can be considered a workout. It allows reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, losing excess weight, and stabilizing blood pressure.
You should be careful that your heart rate does not exceed 80 beats per minute. Once it happens, you need to slow down the pace.
|High||9,0||It is used in race walking competitions. Without mastering the proper technique, it is impossible to achieve this speed.|
To choose the optimal load for your body, you should take into account not only the speed, but also the number of steps per unit of time, because the step length is individual.
|Level||Steps per minute|
|Very slow||Up to 70|
|Very fast||More than 140|
Choose the Route
You should choose the route that lies far away from the highways. If usual walks are too easy for you and you want to increase the load, you can incorporate inclined roads, stairs, etc. into your routes.
There are special walking routes that are used by people who want to improve their health or test their strength. Here are some well-known examples.
Manhattan Circle (32 miles or 51.5 km)
Every year since 1982, a non-commercial event, The Great Saunter, has been taking place in New York (USA). According to organizers, the participants need to take 64 thousand steps. The original mission of the public walk was the desire to recover the coastline from commercial developers who tried to grab the tidbits of land and restrict public access to it. Due to the efforts of all participants, this was achieved, and nowadays, there are park areas to walk around.
If you decide to take part in the event, you should be ready for a hard workout – the average time for participants to complete the distance is 11.5 hours.
Saint Jacob Route
In Spanish, this route is called El Camino de Santiago. It is the network of roads that were used by the ancient people to reach the supposed tomb of the Apostle Jacob. The route is an international heritage of UNESCO. The longest route, the so-called French route that lies through the cities of Spain and France is about 800 km long and is shown on the map below. It includes both cycling and walking options. All roads are properly marked, so it is extremely difficult to get lost there.
It is recommended to walk in the morning, because the body burns the largest number of calories at this time of the day. Afternoon walks are also good.
You can walk instead of travelling on public transport for short distances. Also, you can refrain from using elevators in favor of stair walking, because it also helps burn calories perfectly.
You should warm up your body before walking. For the first five minutes, the pace should be slow and smoothly increase. You should maintain a correct posture, with your back straight, your belly tightened, and your shoulders open.
You should land on your heel and roll on your toe. The front part of the foot helps push off the ground. To increase your speed, you do not need to take a wider step – you just need to take more frequent steps.
You should keep your elbows bent and move them to and from your waist and chest. Decrease your speed gradually. The last minutes of walking should be at the same slow pace, and you need to breathe deeply and smoothly.
You can walk at any location and in any weather. Of course, parks are the best option for walking, because of the clearness of the air.
It is recommended to walk on smooth paths, for example, on soft ground. Due to that, your feet amortize properly. You should choose quality shoes with not too thin or too thick soles. The best option is specialized sports footwear designed specifically for this kind of activity.
Modern Gadgets to Help You
Not so long ago there was a boom about fitness bracelets and smart watches equipped with various sensors. Actually, they significantly simplify our task, because the distance, the speed, and the number of steps are measured automatically. Also, there are many useful programs for smartphones. For example, here are some popular applications that can be used to measure the number of steps and the distance covered:
|Pacer Pedometer & Step Tracker||Accupedo|
- To maintain the proper position of the neck and head while walking, you should look at a distance of about 6 meters ahead.
- There is a famous Hippocrates' quote: "Gymnastics, exercise, and walking must enter the everyday life of everyone who wants to maintain his or her working ability, health, and a full and joyful life".
- The studies at Harvard University showed that among more than 10 thousand graduates, those who walked about 9 miles a day reduced the risk of death by 24%. According to the same university, the studies conducted among 45 thousand medical workers showed that walking for at least 30 minutes a day reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 34%.
- The walkers’ swaying of the hips that may look a bit unusual, helps the athletes increase their speed.
- The standard speed of the highest category walker is 9,3 mph. It is half the speed of a sprinter, however, 2 times the speed of a breast stroker, and 3 times faster than ordinary walking.
- Professional athletes can walk more than 30 km a day, and their weekly norm is almost 120 mi.